By: Ryan Alfieri, Editor
After spending the last eight months twiddling out thumbs in anxious anticipation, Jets football is finally back. After one of the more, erm, interesting offseasons in recent memory, there are a ton of questions that need to be answered before the regular season kicks off in September.
Here are some things to watch for in tomorrow’s game:
The Wildcat Page: With all due respect to Matt Slauson and the riveting left guard competition, the highlight of this game is going to be how often the Jets use the Tebow package. The Jets could either use a ton of the package to get future opponents thinking that they will use it 30 times a game, or they could save the most effective parts of the package.
Is Bilal Powell for Real? By far, one of the biggest surprises from camp is the performance of second-year runner Bilal Powell. Not only has he been getting first-team reps in camp, but he could even start to take away carries from presumed starter Shonn Greene.
Most importantly, look for his performance in pass protection. If he excels in that area, he could steal the number two spot away from Joe McKnight.
Can Coples hold up in the run game? Since declaring him as an immediate starter almost right after the draft, the Jets have since backed off their post-draft statements and have relegated Quinton to backup and third-down duties.
While this news may send a message that the Jets are unhappy with Coples, the things he needs to work on are hardly unusual for a rookie. As Ross Tucker noted, Coples struggled in the run game with his technique:
Jets 1st Rd pick DE Quinton Coples needs some work as run defender. Needs to be quicker off ball & better hand placement.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) August 3, 2012
These issues are relatively easy to fix, and should come with time. We shall see just how far Quinton has come in a few days of practice on Friday night.
Which receiver will stand out? With Santonio Holmes out with a rib injury and Jeremy Kerley in Rex Ryan’s doghouse ad also hampered by a hamstring injury), the window is open for some of the other receivers to gain separation from each other. Look for bubble players like Patrick Turner and seventh-round rookie Jordan White to get plenty of opportunities.
Will the real Mark Sanchez please stand up? There really is no way to predict how Sanchez will respond to everything that has happened over the past eight months. He could run into a corner and hide, or he could come out roaring. Throw in the fact that he is learning a new offense for the first time in three years, and anything is possible.
While this is just a preseason game, if there is anyone who could use some momentum headed into the regular season, its Mark.
Will the Jets blitz? Rex Ryan is going to take a more involved role in the defense this year, which would lead one to believe that he is going to get the Jets back to their aggressive roots and blitz heavily.
However, since it is preseason, I doubt Ryan would open up his playbook to give the Bills a month to study. I wouldn’t doubt, however, if he dials it up a bit to start a mindset headed into the season.