By Brad Carroll
Here are three things to watch as the New York Jets, minus starting quarterback Geno Smith, travel to take on the Detroit Lions Thursday night in the preseason opener.
1. Fitzpatrick's The Guy: There is no more quarterback controversy when it comes to the Jets and their fans, as the job is fully Ryan Fitzpatrick's now. He gets his first opportunity to show everyone he still has the ability which made him a quick star in Buffalo, before ultimately fading back into obscurity. He won't get much time on the field in Detroit, however, as the starters generally play about a quarter in the first preseason game, but new coach Todd Bowles might give him a little more time considering he ascended to the starting role just two days before the game. Geno Smith, of course, won't play after getting his jaw broken during a locker room fight with former teammate IK Enemkpali, who apologized for the punch during a press conference after joining Rex Ryan's Bills Thursday.
2. Petty's The Guy: Well, for this game anyway. Rookie quarterback Bryce Petty should get to play a majority of the game against the Lions, and from all the reports from training camp, he needs the work. Petty was drafted out of Baylor as a project quarterback, as his adjustment to the NFL was going to include a steep learning curve, considering the offense he ran in college, so this is no surprise. But if Petty can prove in an actual game he can play the position, it only helps his future standing with the club. He might even be able to grab the No. 2 job behind Fitzpatrick with a solid performance. More likely, it will take longer than this one game to prove that, but getting off to a solid start is crucial for the fourth-round draft pick. It might even be more crucial for the fans, who are clamoring for Petty to be a potential franchise quarterback down the line.
3. Defensive Line On Display: There are tons of question marks surrounding the once-strongest part of the Jets team, the defensive line. First, Sheldon Richardson made one bad decision after another, first getting suspended for the first four games of the season for smoking marijuana, and then getting in a high-speed chase with police, going in excess of 140 mph with a kid and a gun in the car, not to mention the reported stench of pot. He's not only a question mark for the preseason, but his entire Jets career at this point, which might not last into next season. And Richardson, who became a star in his rookie season, has no one to blame but himself for his sudden decline, as he simply can't be trusted. Mo Wilkerson doesn't have a new contract still, although he should, and might not play tonight. Wilkerson missed a week of camp with a hamstring injury and still hasn't returned to full speed. It doesn't make much sense for him to play and risk injury, so the Jets best lineman will be on the sidelines. That means tonight is a huge chance for rookie Leonard Williams to prove he not only belongs in the NFL, but can take over a starting role on one of the best defensive lines in football, when everyone is available, of course. The Jets need the first-round draft pick from USC to play well more than every before, so his debut will be one of the biggest things to watch in Detroit.