By Brad Carroll
While the NFL’s third preseason game is typically one where starters on both offense and defense come into focus, sometimes playing into the third quarter before giving way to the backups, the New York Jets find themselves nowhere near the norm.
Heading into Saturday’s annual preseason battle with the rival New York Giants, the Jets don’t even have a starting quarterback to speak of, let alone know who most of the starters are on an offense void of talent. The defense is more or less set, but there’s a laundry-list of questions everywhere else for head coach Todd Bowles.
Already playing out one of the strangest quarterback competitions in the history of the NFL (and how crazy is it to write that when Geno Smith will be on the opposite sideline watching it all unfold before his own eyes), the Jets will attempt to find some much-needed answers. While fans might not be able to keep track of everything going on in this hectic training camp, we have broken out four of the biggest storylines to watch Saturday to make it all a little easier to digest.
Who Will Start At QB?
Your guess is as good as anyone’s right now, as I’m not even sure Bowles knows who his starting quarterback is going to be Saturday, let alone in Week 1 of the regular season. On paper and on the field, Josh McCown has won the job. But when you go by practice reps this week, all signs point to Christian Hackenberg starting and Bryce Petty being the next man up. So, yes, this is going to be a huge game for a number of reasons, but most importantly, where the heck do the Jets stand when it comes to the most important position on the field? We just may get some answers with who Bowles decides to start in this game. Decision-makers and the fan base will get to see first-hand once again who, if anyone, will grab control of the starting quarterback position going forward. Remember, Bowles said he’ll make a final decision Monday. If Hackenberg plays well Saturday, he just might be the guy.
Can the Jets find a playmaker Saturday, flipping the script from when the Giants discovered then-rookie Victor Cruz when he scored three touchdowns in a preseason game against the Jets, making the team and becoming a star in the process? Certainly Jets fans hope so, as the team is completely void of playmakers, with only running back Bilal Powell as a possible contender. The Jets, however, need to find a couple of wide receivers who fit that bill. Robby Anderson has shown flashes, and caught a big pass in Week 1 of the preseason, but he was nowhere to be found in Week 2. The two biggest possibilities for breakout stars are rookies ArDarius Stewart, a third round pick, and Chad Hansen, a fourth-rounder. Stewart had two catches for 23 yards last week, while Hansen had two grabs for 13 yards. The Jets need one or both of those rookies, or any of the wide receivers on the team for that matter, to have a breakout game. One guy who it won’t be is Marquess Wilson, who was released this week.
The Jets defense looked like it could be the best in the league after beating the Titans in Week 1 of the preseason, but the following week ruined that dream, as they were shredded by the Detroit Lions. This game against the Giants will be a nice test to see exactly what this Jets defense can or cannot be. The potential for greatness is there, with Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Mo Wilkerson as entrenched stars, and rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye showing promise of getting to that level themselves. The Giants may be missing some key players on offense Saturday, but they are still considered one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl out of the NFC, so the first half will be a great test and a telling one for the Jets defense.
Hey, Who’s The Kicker?
The competition between Ross Martin and Chandler Catanzaro continues Saturday. Martin was 2-of-3 on field goal attempts last week, the one miss coming from 56 yards out. Catanzaro missed his only field attempt of the preseason, a 55-yarder against the Titans. He did make an extra point. Hopefully the Jets offense can at least drive deep enough into Giants’ territory to give either of these kickers a chance to win the job.