By Brad Carroll
It was preseason game that no one will remember when the regular season kicks off in under a month, but the New York Jets’ 7-3 victory over the Tennessee Titans last week had to feel good for the team and the fan base. The first-team offense, with quarterback Josh McCown, went right downfield and scored a touchdown on the opening drive, the defense was tremendous throughout the game, showing they could make up for a offense lacking any kind of star power during the season, and even Christian Hackenberg played well when given the opportunity.
All in all, it was a great way for the Jets to open a 2017 campaign that has disaster written all over it. It’s only preseason, yes, but it was a nice start nonetheless.
Now, the Jets head to Detroit for a matchup with the Lions Saturday night, and there are plenty of storylines to follow, just as there was last week and will follow throughout training camp. So here are the four biggest storylines to follow as the Jets take on Matthew Stafford and company.
McCown’s Time To Shine
Even though Jets fans should be hoping to see Christian Hackenberg win the starting quarterback job, allowing the team a whole season to see if he can truly be a possible franchise player, or not, and then make a decision on a draft choice in the first round afterward, Josh McCown is the odds-on favorite to win the job. It would actually be a shock if he wasn’t starting in Week 1. But this game against the Lions is the first true test of what kind of quarterback McCown still is. The journeyman played well in limited action against the Titans, going 3-of-4 for 72 yards and a touchdown, but will have a much bigger sample size Saturday, playing well into the first quarter and possibly the first half, depending on how much coach Todd Bowles wants to see Hackenberg. With a solid performance in Detroit, McCown will lock up the starting job, as after the second preseason game the reps will get smaller and smaller for the backups, meaning Hackenberg and Bryce Petty will barely see time in practice. If McCown struggles badly, and Hackenberg does well in relief, it could change the competition going forward. Once again, it’s all about the quarterbacks for the Jets this summer.
All About The Defense
The defense was great against Tennessee, so great in fact that fans may be convinced this team has a chance to possibly compete for a wild card this year. I know, it’s a far-fetched dream, but with the way the defense played last week, it’s possible they alone could win several games for the Jets this season. (And this could be good or bad, depending on if you are rooting for the team to fail enough to secure a high enough draft pick and pick the best quarterback available.) The Jets had eight sacks, forced two turnovers and held the Titans to just a field goal. There’s a big difference between the regular season and preseason, but that’s still impressive. Against Detroit, we’ll get to see if the defense can come close to duplicating that success, and therefore give more credence to the fact this defense could be special, or if they will come back down to Earth a bit and ruin that good will. How the defense, including rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, do in the first half against Detroit will go a long way in determining if this defense is for real or not.
Can A No. 2 WR Emerge?
Robby Anderson could be a star in the making, which would be just what the Jets need. He’s clearly the No. 1 receiver, so he’s going to get plenty of chances to shine this regular season. He already had a big grab in the preseason opener, with a 53-yard catch to set up a touchdown, and he’s been a big player in practice too. That’s the good news. The bad news is everyone else the Jets have at the position has been bad. The drops have been the only thing consistent with the group, as it’s been a problem all training camp, and was prevalent last week against the Titans as well. The position only got weaker when Lucky Whitehead broke his foot and will miss several weeks of action. The Jets are hoping someone will emerge as the clear No. 2 receiver soon, and Saturday’s game against Detroit will be a big test for everyone at the position. It could be a big day for rookie ArDarius Stewart. While Jets fans are hoping someone emerges, everyone should be happy if the team simply cuts out the drops.
Powell To Debut?
Bilal Powell returned to practice this week and could play against the Lions Saturday. That would be a huge boost to the entire offense, as Powell starred last year when given the opportunity to carry the ball. Powell is one of the few playmakers the Jets have on offense, so to see him on the field would be a giant positive, especially for the quarterbacks. As for Matt Forte, he’s unlikely to play. Forte should be pushed to the backburner in favor of Powell this season.