The New York Jets don’t have many solutions as they prepare for the annual dress rehearsal in their third preseason contest against the New York Giants.
Obviously, this game means something to the fans who like to hold bragging rights over winning the annual exhibition matchup and the coveted Snoopy Bowl. But the Jets have a ton of questions to answer Saturday night at MetLife Stadium. New York has to find some solutions at some of their weakest, but most competitive positions. A winning outcome is merely gravy.
So let’s get this all straight: Josh McCown was signed this offseason to presumably serve as a bridge quarterback or placeholder for either a youngster on the roster, or the next big thing in the draft. He was the starter throughout offseason workouts and led the Jets to a touchdown on the opening drive of the preseason. The Jets have scored only six points with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg under center. McCown didn’t play last weekend against the Detroit Lions and now he’s become a bystander during practice leading up to the most important preseason game of the season.
Coach Todd Bowles has refused to name a starter for Saturday’s game and claims a Week 1 starter will be named next week.
By reading between the lines, it seems as if the Jets are doing everything possible to help Christian Hackenberg win the starting job. The best guess is he gets another crack at starting against the Giants. The question is for how long? If Hackenberg flops again, like he did last week, how long can Bowles wait before giving McCown some reps with the starters?
The Jets’ initiative to give Hackenberg a chance makes complete sense. But at some point, Bowles has to play the guy who gives him the best chance to win. Right now, that’s not Hackenberg. Then again, maybe Bowles has received a vote of confidence from Jets’ brass that he will keep his job no matter what happens this season.
How Bowles divides the snaps and how the quarterbacks perform will be the polarizing storyline from this game.
No OBJ and no Marshall?
One important side plot to Saturday’s game would’ve been how the Jets’ rebuilt secondary stacks up against Giants receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Unfortunately, we probably won’t find out.
Beckham is most likely done for the preseason after injury his ankle Monday night against Cleveland. Marshall also hurt his shoulder. Both injuries appear to be minor, but they’re risky enough to keep both players out of action.
Marshall, the former Jet, is probably fine with sitting out this contest against his old team. Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson has been feuding with Marshall throughout the offseason and could be looking to inflict damage on a person he claimed divided the locker room last season.
The revolving door of offensive linemen
One of New York’s most unresolved positional groups is along the offensive line, where Bowles said both tackles and center are up for grabs.
The Jets worked out former Giants tackle Will Beatty Thursday, indicating that they aren’t impressed by what they saw from Kelvin Beachum and Ben Ijalana at left tackle. On the right side, neither youngster Brandon Shell nor Brent Qvale have done much to impress the coaching staff. Wesley Johnson appeared to be poised to become Nick Mangold’s successor, but Jonotthan Harrison has made it a competition.
New York’s offensive line has been grossly disappointing throughout the preseason. Part of that is a lack of continuity because nobody can claim the starting job. The Jets must come out of Saturday night’s game with answers at two of these three spots, at least.
Not so special competitions
The returner competitions have been a flat-out bust, as nobody has really emerged as a true playmaker. Lucky Whitehead, the potential front-runner, was lost for the season with a broken foot. The Jets have utilized Whitehead, Frankie Hammond, Marcus Murphy and Romar Morris on returns during the preseason and only Hammond has a return that went longer than 30 yards.
As for the kicking competition, New York’s offensive futility hasn’t helped the team sort that out. It will be interesting to see who the Jets line up to attempt the first field goal or point-after try, assuming they actually get on the board. Ross Martin went 2-for-3 on his attempts against the Lions, but his longest kick was only from 31 yards and he missed a 56-yard try. Chandler Catanzaro has been more erratic in practice, but might get an opportunity to steal the job Saturday night.