Saturday’s preseason victory against the Giants was classic New York Jets football.
The offense was both effective, and unwatchable. Tthe defense looked slow on some plays and dominant in others, and a kicker reminded everyone why fans still don’t trust him, despite his connecting on 77 percent of field attempts with the team.
For fans, the game was frustrating, surprisingly compelling, and informative. Here’s what we learned Saturday night:
Rex’s decision making isn’t where it needs to be
By late August, most teams have picked their starting quarterback – but most teams aren’t the Jets. Rex Ryan waited until Thursday to tab rookie Geno Smith as the Saturday starter. In the interest of fair competition, Smith played three full quarters, completing 16-of-30 passes with a touchdown and three interceptions and ran out of the end zone for a safety before Ryan inserted the second string offense. Mark Sanchez took over in the fourth quarter with the second unit, and completed five of his six pass attempts and fumbled a snap. More importantly, Sanchez got crushed on a long pass to Mohamed Massaquoi and had to leave the game. He is listed as day-to-day with a right shoulder injury. The fact is, Sanchez, who may need to be the team’s week one starter, should never have been on the field without a starting caliber offensive line in front of him. Ryan has defended his handling of the competition, and to his credit, Sanchez doesn’t blame the coach. Rex is under a massive microscope right now. Fans, media and countless anonymous sources are questioning losing patience.
The defense still looks slow at times
Running back David Wilson took a handoff and ran left tackle for an 84-yard touchdown on the Giants’ first play from scrimmage. Garrett McIntyre, who got the start at linebacker because of Coples’ injury, got pinned inside and failed to set the edge against a good double team block allowing Wilson to break the line of scrimmage. After that there was no chance. Lateral quickness still seems to be a problem for the starting unit. David Harris, one of the the leaders on the team, has been victimized several times this preseason by backs and tight ends in the open field. Demario Davis has a great opportunity to turn his speed into playing time in the nickle package and against speedier backs. The Defense did, however, improve as the game progressed, holding the Giants to a pair of field goals in the second and third quarters. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson generated inside pressure and recorded a sack and two QB hits in the game. He suffered an ankle injury, but says he’ll be fine. If healthy, this young, revamped defensive line could be special.
Geno isn’t ready
Not that he won’t eventually be ready, but Geno Smith doesn’t look ready right now. Asked about his interception, Giants DB Prince Amukamara said his team saw the Jets’ QB staring down his receivers. Smith showed off his big arm and potential, but also played like a rookie adjusting to a higher game speed and tricky coverages. He looked shaky against the blitz and it affected his accuracy. The West Virginia product has a chance to be great, but it wouldn’t be fair to throw him into the den right away. Unfortunately, Rex may not have a choice.
‘Tone Time can’t get here quickly enough
Mercurial wide out Santonio Holmes was recently activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list and practiced Monday for the first time since suffering a suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 4 last season. Good timing. The Jets continued to pare down the roster today, and cut Rex favorite Braylon Edwards. The receiver position is in flux right now. The only give-in is Jeremy Kerley in the slot. Stephen Hill is still improving his catching and ball security. Also, his in-game focus could be better – he was flagged for a boneheaded penalty for slapping a Giants player after the whistle. Veteran TE Kellen Winslow showed signs of life, and undrafted rookie Ryan Spadola continues to impress. That’s all great, but the Jets need Holmes’ speed and sure hands on the field.
A new challenger emerges?
Interestingly enough, after Sanchez exited the game, the most overlooked player in Jets camp got some late game reps. With Greg McElroy unavailable, fourth-string QB Matt Simms got on the field. Kid can sling it. He took advantage of the opportunity, hooking up with Spadola on a 22-yard touchdown strike and again on a 70-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. Simms is like an NFL version of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn from “Major League,” – bazooka for an arm, no idea where it’s going. He’s looked sharp so far in preseason. McElroy’s spot may soon be in jeopardy.
Kyle Wilson still can’t play a ball in the air without holding; Geno has a quick, accurate release when he has time; Sanchez can make every NFL throw if his line holds up (sensing a theme); Rookie full back Tommy Bohanon has nice hands, but missed a key block on the goal line which almost resulted in a Chris Ivory safety; Isaiah Trufant can ball; and a farewell to Joe McKnight.