Tonight the Jets and Redskins face off for their third preseason game of the year. Traditionally the third preseason game is the most important of the offseason and this year is no different for the Jets.

The Jets as a unit have struggled for consistency all preseason and they hope to kick into high gear and and finish this game in regular season form. In the first game against the Giants the first team did their job leaving Rex Ryan pleased, but then came the second and third teams, who quite frankly stunk up the joint. The second game against the Pathers, it was the offenses turn to come out flat. While the defense and special teams won the game for the Jets, causing multiple turnovers and holding the Panthers to just three points.

There are many obvious reasons to point to as to why the offense struggled so much in Carolina. Many times the first game after camp breaks teams naturally experience a bit of a let down in intensity, also the offensive starters only played a couple of quick disappointing series and were never able to get into a rhythm. The back-up’s have no such excuse they just simply weren’t good enough by the new Jet standards set by Ryan.

Whatever the reason for the inconsistency, things must start to click for the team as a whole tonight. The third preseason game is all about the starters, this is the game where they will play the most as they get a bit of a break next week and the fringe players on the roster will get most of the playing time to try and prove why they shouldn’t be cut.

The offense has a tough challenge on their hands tonight, the offense struggled against the Carolina defense and the Redskin’s defense should provide just as much of a challenge, but Ryan doesn’t want to hear any excuses, he is demanding results.

Ryan has been around the NFL and some of the greatest coaching minds this league has seen over his career and he knows the importance of getting into a good rhythm right off the bat. Ryan said, “It’s going to be a challenge because, Washington, if I’m not mistaken, they were a top five defense last year, so I think that’ll be a good challenge. They have a lot of weapons on offense (and head coach) Mike Shanahan. They went for 400 yards passing against the Ravens, even though they only scored three points. It’s going to be a good test for both sides of the ball. This will be the last (preseason game with the starters). I mean we’ll get a series against Philly probably, maybe a little longer than that, but not much. This will be a big test for us.”

One thing that will make this test much easier for the Jets, is that Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb will sit out with what is being called a minor ankle injury. Apparently he tweaked his ankle and would be fine to play in a regular season game, but as is often seen in preseason games this seems to be a precautionary move on the Redskins part. Probably a smart one at that, considering if McNabb’s movement is limited at all he could just be a sitting duck back there waiting for the blitzing Jet defenders and he probably wants to avoid the Eli treatment. Redskins starting fullback Mike Sellers has also been scratched from the game which will not doubt leave the Skin’s rushing attack at less than full strength. Of course if Ryan had it his way McNabb and Sellers would be healthy and play so they could face a tougher test, if McNabb was to say get hurt during the game from a vicious sack, well then that would be a different story.

From the first team defense Ryan has seen exactly what he has hoped for and he expects for that to continue not only tonight, but all the way through the season and until they reach his goal of, “Soon to be Champs.” As he famously signed the ESPN NFL tour bus. As for the second and third stringers Ryan wants to know who is good enough to make this roster and just from watching, “Hard Knocks,” it’s evident Ryan’s confidence in his players starts to waver more and more the father down the depth chart he goes.

As for the offense Ryan has some specific things in mind for what he wants to see improve. Ryan said, “I think the protection would be the first thing. We have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback, a better job completing passes and a better job running the football. Other than that, I think it was a pretty good performance against Carolina(laughing)”. Okay so maybe it’s not that specific.

There is however on specific area the coaches and fans should be paying close attention to and that’s on the battle for starting left guard which seems to be getting more heated with each passing day. “He (Slauson) has been ahead the whole way, but the kid (Ducasse) is coming. If we can eliminate the little mistakes (Ducasse) had in the game and make it a physical contest, I think he could close the gap even more. It’s still a contest in my opinion.”

It’s been a constant battle throughout training camp, but tonight should prove to be a big step in deciding who wins the role. They have been splitting time with the first team in practice, but it has been Slauson getting the first team reps in the games. That will change tonight as Ducasse will get some reps with the first team, as well Slauson, against the Redskins. Ryan said, “Yes, it’s something we talked about and we’ll give him a shot there. But he’s got to eliminate the mental mistakes or I don’t want him in there, (not) if he can’t handle it mentally.” Tonight is Ducasse chance to prove he can handle it as he hopes to grab hold of the starting left guard spot.

Other Things To Watch For

Sanchez has had his up’s and down’s throughout this offseason, mostly on the upside, but fans and coaches alike will be looking for more consistency from him this week.

Will Santonio Holmes continue to play with the second and third teams, or will he get in on some of the first team action. He might be suspended for the first four games, but eventually he is going to need those first team game reps.

Laveranues Coles will make his return to Washington, where he was traded to the Redskins only to be traded back to the Jets, then bouncing back and forth to Cincinnati and back to the Jets.

Can kicker Nick Folk continue to look like the former pro bowl kicker, that he was in Dallas, as he has looked all through training camp.
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