By Ryan Alfieri, Editor
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
This is one of the more pivotal preseason games in recent memory for the Jets, mainly due to their offensive woes. As the only team in the NFL to have not scored a touchdown this preseason, this will be the starters’ last chance to get some momentum headed into the regular season.
If they stumble again, it could be catastrophic for the team’s psyche.
Here are some key items to watch for in tonight’s game:
Austin Howard’s First Start: #Waynewatch is now over, marking the beginning of the Howard era at right tackle. He played decently with the starters against the Bengals, but he has never had to deal with the “starter” label yet.
Carolina does not have the array of pass-rushers that the Giants have, so this should be a good opportunity for Howard to get his feet wet.
Receiving Corps gets a boost: One of the biggest reasons why the Jets’ offense has stumbled out of the gate is because most of their starters have been riding a stationary bike all summer. Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley will make their preseason debuts tonight, which give a huge boost to the Jets passing game.
However, the Jets need to start to stretch the field with rookie Stephen Hill if they want to maximize the productivity of Holmes and Kerley underneath. Most of Sanchez’s passes have been short or check-downs, allowing opposing safeties to creep up into the box.
Coples gets the start: Because of a calf injury, Mike DeVito is expected to miss the remainder of the preseason. This leaves a wide open spot for rookie Quinton Coples in the starting lineup.
This has been a bit of an up-and down preseason for Coples. While he was dominant against the Bengals and recorded a sack against the Giants, most of his production has come against backups and his lack of technique in the run game has been evident when he goes up against starters. In addition, his practice habits have been far from perfect, which is probably the biggest reason why he was kept out of the starting lineup.
Now, Coples and the rest of the defensive front will go against a solid Carolina offensive line. This will be a huge test for Coples as he tries to stay productive in the preseason.
Pound the Rock: If the Jets are ever going to show that they are the dominant running team they claim to be, now is the time to do it. Carolina’s defense is weak up the middle, particularly at the defensive tackle spot. Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and Matt Slauson should have their way with Terrell McClain and Sione Fua.
If the Jets struggle on the ground tonight, it could be a bad omen for how the running game will look when the games count.