FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who hasn't played a game since his infamous benching in the 2011 regular-season finale, will make his preseason debut Sunday night for the New York Jets.
Coach Rex Ryan made it official Friday, saying Holmes and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley will face the Carolina Panthers. This should be a boost to the Jets' struggling offense, which has yet to score a touchdown in the preseason. The Mark Sanchez-led starting unit has produced no points in eight possessions.
"I hope it could be a big spark," Kerley said. "Get some new legs out there and give Mark some (more) targets."
Holmes suffered rib-cartilage damage in an Aug. 4 intrasquad scrimmage when he was hit by cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Holmes returned to practice this week on a limited basis, and on Thursday, he said he was "pretty confident" he'd play against the Panthers. On Friday, Holmes took only a handful of reps, wearing the red no-contact jersey.
There's some risk involved with Holmes playing Sunday, considering he hasn't taken a hit in preseason. The Jets can't afford a long-term injury to Holmes, their only proven receiver.
Kerley has missed most of training camp with a slight hamstring tear. He received a public rebuke early in camp from Ryan, who said he was "disappointed" in the second-year receiver.
Ryan said he expects his starters to play about three quarters Sunday, but Holmes and Kerley probably will be limited to about 10 to 15 plays.
This will give the Jets an opportunity to evaluate their receiving corps. In the first two games, they relied on rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White and veteran backup Patrick Turner -- one reason why their passing game was virtually nonexistent.
Chaz Schilens, projected as a key backup, will miss his second game with a high-ankle sprain.
Ryan sounded concerned.
"That's not a good thing for a defensive lineman," he said of the calf injury.
Bell experienced looseness in his knee and sat out Friday's practice.
It's "nothing serious," according to Ryan, who added: "If there's any issue at all, we won't play him."