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When evaluating the preseason, it's important to remember the Browning Nagle Rule: Appearances (good and bad) can be deceiving.
The strong-armed quarterback led the New York Jets to a 5-0 record in the 1992 preseason, fueling wild expectations, but he was a major flop and never was relevant again.
With that in mind, we present our "Ready or not" list, determining who's ready for the regular season based on the first three preseason games (starters won't play Thursday night in the finale).
|Mark Sanchez has been accurate in August.|
READY: Mark Sanchez. The Jets have yet to score a touchdown, but don't blame the starting quarterback.
In roughly 5½ quarters, Sanchez has committed only one major mistake -- an interception by the New York Giants that was returned for a touchdown. His interception against the Carolina Panthers was the fault of rookie receiver Stephen Hill, who coughed up a well-thrown pass.
Sanchez has completed 69 percent of his passes (24-for-35), an encouraging start for a quarterback with a history of accuracy issues. He has a good grasp of Tony Sparano's offense and he doesn't appear bothered by Tebow-Mania.
"I loved the way Mark threw the football," Rex Ryan said after Sunday night's loss to the Panthers.
NOT: Tim Tebow. Tim the runner is ready, but Tim the passer has a long way to go.
The Jets are in trouble if they have to go with Tebow for a long stint out of the bullpen. No one expected him to morph into a Steve Young, but a 26.5 passer rating is a bit alarming. His 38 percent completion rate (13-for-34) reads more like an NBA 3-point shooter than NFL quarterback.
Tebow's interception against the Panthers was troubling, an off-balance throw -- under pressure -- into quadruple coverage. Nothing bothers Sparano more than turnovers, and he'll never trust Tebow as long as Tebow plays carelessly. But, hey, he can make plays when he's running, and that will be his role Sept. 9 when they unveil him in the Wildcat.
READY: The defense. The starters have played about as well as could be expected, having allowed only four field goals and one touchdown in roughly six quarters -- and the touchdown came after a turnover in their own territory.
If they stay healthy, the Jets should be a top-five defense once again. The additions of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell at safety have added a new dimension to the defense, more athleticism and pop in the middle of the field. Some of the young backups, namely Kenrick Ellis and rookie Quinton Coples, appear ready to contribute.
READY: Coples. He has three sacks -- one in each game -- demonstrating pass-rush ability from the interior. He's not Jason Pierre-Paul, no matter what Ryan says, but Coples has the ability to upgrade the the Jets' three- and four-man rush. He needs to improve his attitude and practice habits; Ryan called him out Sunday night, saying the No. 1 pick didn't want to play with the backups. That needs to change -- fast.
NOT: Stephen Hill. No one said this was going to be easy. The rookie wideout caught only 49 passes at Georgia Tech, playing in a triple-option offense, so you knew there would be growing pains.
They showed up in a bad way Sunday night, as he dropped two passes. The second drop, which went off his hands for a gift interception, was simply a lack of concentration. He needs to focus, quickly, because they're counting on him to play a lot.
NOT: The rest of the receivers. Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, coming off injuries that cost them two games and significant practice time, are bound to be rusty. They could use another tune-up game, but Ryan won't play his front-line players in Philadelphia, especially not Holmes.
Holmes played about 15 snaps against the Panthers, and there were a couple of timing problems with Sanchez. That will take time to get ironed out. Tight end Dustin Keller could miss practice with a pulled hamstring, so now you're talking about across-the-board issues in the passing game.
READY: Shonn Greene. He's a notoriously slow starter, but he looked good the last two weeks, especially reading his blocks. He seems more decisive than in the past. He'd better be on his game early because a good chunk of the offense runs through him.
NOT: The offensive line. It cleaned up some protection issues this week, with Austin Howard starting at right tackle for the departed Wayne Hunter, but that doesn't mean everything is cool. Howard still is inexperienced, and opponents will attack him in the regular season. The addition of former St. Louis Rams bust Jason Smith also clouds the position.