What to watch for during New York Jets’ preseason opener vs. Titans

The New York Jets begin the 2017 preseason Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans. Sure, the Jets likely won’t be gearing up for a playoff run this summer, but there are still plenty of important storylines to monitor during the preseason.

It’s all about building a future foundation for Gang Green, so the preseason might be more important than you think. It might be hard to watch, but here are five things to watch for when the Jets take the field at MetLife Stadium.

QB shuffle?

Todd Bowles said Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty will all play Saturday. The question is how many reps will each quarterback get? Bowles didn’t specify a starter for the game because it’s such a secret. Although Hackenberg has seen his first-team reps increase over the last week, it seems likely that McCown will start the game and will probably play anywhere from one to three series.

Predicting who will take the reps after McCown exits is a more difficult question. The initial thought is Petty will enter the game second and play out the rest of the first half. Then, Hackenberg would enter with the second-string offense to begin the second half and finish the game with the third unit. Giving Hackenberg an entire half to show what he’s learned since last preseason seems like a prudent approach.

Who starts at OLB?

Our Max Marcilla chronicled the intriguing competition at outside linebacker earlier this week. It will be interesting to see who Bowles tabs as his starter and how he distributes the reps among the unit.

Freddie Bishop, Lorenzo Mauldin, Jordan Jenkins, Dylan Donahue, Frank Beltre and Josh Martin have all seen time with the starting defense. Donahue and Beltre have come on strong recently, which means one of them could start opposite Jordan Jenkins Saturday night. This unit could be drastically altered by who performs well when the lights are on.

Can I get a wideout?

Someone needs to catch passes for the Jets this season. Our Adam Zielonka believes Matt Forte could lead the team in receiving, but the Jets will need someone to emerge on the outside and it can’t be Forte.

All eyes will be on Robby Anderson, Charone Peake and Jalin Marshall, who will likely be the starters Saturday. After them, rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen could get extended looks. It will also be intriguing to see whether fringe players such as Chris Harper, Marquess Wilson, Myles White, Deshon Foxx and Gabe Marks stand out during the game. You can get to know all of these guys right here.

Asking for star power at receiver is asking way too much from this underwhelming unit. New York should bask in any moments of competency.

The duo of the future debuts

Jets fans will get a brief look at how the team will utilize its safety tandem of the future Saturday night. Rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye will make their highly-anticipated debuts. Adams has already emerged as one of the best players on this roster; Maye recorded a pick-six during the Green and White Scrimmage last week.

Special teams battles

The Jets won’t have a good offense and won’t get many takeaways from their defense, so the third phase will be vital in 2017. The problem is the Jets aren’t sure what they have on special teams either.

Lucky Whitehead, Frankie Hammond, Chris Harper and Romar Morris are all competing for the returning duties. Each player except Whitehead muffed or misjudged a punt at some point during Thursday’s practice. Simply put, the person who makes a play or two against the Titans will likely enter next week as the favorite.

But wait, there’s more! Pay careful attention to who is kicking field goals or PATs (assuming the Jets actually get on the board) during Saturday’s game. The kicking competition between Chandler Catanzaro and Ross Martin is as heated as any camp competition right now.

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