As training camp comes to a close, the word being spread throughout SUNY Cortland Athletic Complex is consistency. Not just in reference to rookie running back, Joe McKnight, but to the whole team. The overall talent is there from top to bottom, but the key for the 2010 Jets will be harnessing that talent over a consistent basis.
Last week, in the face of the media hysteria and fan fare, the Jets lost the grand unveiling of their new stadium to the Giants, 31-16. While the starters looked sharp, jumping out to a 13-10 lead at halftime, the second unit stumbled out the gates as Giants back-up QB, Jim Sorgi, rallied Big Blue over Gang Green in the “Battle for the Big Apple”.
The Jets were missing consistency. Mark Sanchez looked impressive leading three scoring drives while going 13-17 for 119 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT, but had a ball returned by Giants safety Antrel Rolle to the 1 yard line on the opening drive. LaDanian Tomlinson had a 14-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty. The first-team defense KO’d Eli Manning, but allowed a career day for back-up WR Victor Cruz (6 catches, 145 yards, 3 TDs).
“I don’t even know who No. 3 is,” Jets linebacker Bart Scott said, “but he looked like Randy Moss out there with those three touchdowns.”
Quotes like that aren’t going to fly this week, as the Jets travel out to Charlotte, North Carolina for a preseason match-up against the Panthers Saturday night. The Panthers are coming off a dreadful preseason opener, losing to the Baltimore Ravens, 17-12. The offense was shut out by the Ravens, with their only touchdown coming on a C.J. Wilson 31-yard fumble return in which the kicker missed the PAT.
The Jets hope to continue the offensive shut out, as they will likely not have to deal with Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith. Smith, who has been on the PUP list after suffering a broken arm in a flag football game, was activated this week, but it remains uncertain if he will play in the preseason.
“No more. That’ll be about it,” head coach Rex Ryan said in regards to the starters only playing the first quarter. “Last week, we mentioned what our plan was, (and) I think the Giants had a very similar plan because I think we played three more plays than they did with the starters. But that’s the deal, that’s how we’re going into this game.”
The defensive starters should be able to sharpen their blades against a Panthers offense that’s rather blunt. With Smith not on the field, the Panthers become very one-dimensional, running team — due largely to their tw0-headed tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Quarterbacks Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen are inexperienced at best against a professional NFL defense and it showed against the Ravens. They went a combined 14-32 for 148 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 2 fumbles, while being sacked seven times.
Where the Jets and Ravens play a similar attack-style of defense, alas Rex Ryan, fully expect the defense to enjoy a stellar day in all aspects. The defense closed camp on a very high note, according to Ryan. “[The day] was dominated by the defense,” said Ryan during Thursday’s press conference. “We had a practice schedule (in which) the offense had a little bonus work to go over their third downs, but it was really dominated by the defense.”
The offense, however, may run into some trouble as any John Fox team is a a team that is coached very well on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers did a solid job at slowing down a revamped Ravens offense, tallying six sack, four fumbles (three recovered), an interception, and a defensive TD. Panthers cornerback, Chris Gamble, is a problem for receivers on the left side and has a knack of getting his hands on the ball. The premier match-up to look for in this game will be Gamble against Braylon Edwards. Edwards, who has enjoyed an above average training camp, is looking to shed his reputation as a butter-fingered receiver and live up to his top-flight potential. Last week against the Giants, Edwards caught everything his way as he recorded three catches for 35 yards.
Also keep an eye on the match-up up the middle between John Conner and Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason. Both deliver spine-bending hits with a smile as they’re doing it. If you hear a pop up the middle on a running play, it will most likely be coming from one of these two brutes.
But this will be a game for the veterans to prove themselves. Ryan has previously stated that while the starters will being playing roughly a quarter, veterans like Laveranues Coles and Mark Brunell will see more playing time. Both saw limited field time against the Giants, and it’s important — especially for Coles, who expects to be used with somewhat regularity — to get the repetitions and the feel for game speed.
There haven’t been any scratches from the game yet, however he is still questionable about inside linebackers Braston Sateele and Joshua Mauga. Sateele hasn’t been able to practice due to an ankle injury while Mauga suffered a concussion and was taken off the bicycle during practice after complaining of headaches. Conner (knee), Jason Thomas (ankle) and Lance Laury (cut on lower lip) all expect to play Saturday.
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