Here are some thoughts on the Jets 1st Preseason Game (in no particular order):
- I thought Sanchez looked sharp. He went 6 for 7 and he should get a Mulligan on his one incompletion since it was a dropped by Matthew. It was nice to see some chemistry with Mason. It would have been nice to see Sanchez throw the ball down the field more but with a decimated offensive line, I’m glad he was only really asked to make the short underneath throws.
- When I saw the replay of Bart’s injury on the Texans' fist offensive play, I felt like we dodged a bullet. That could have been very ugly. In one of Rex’s press conferences this week, Rex mentioned how savvy veterans like Bart have a feel for situations like this and that Bart was alert enough to let go so his body would fall with his leg. It is amazing that, prior to this injury, he had only missed 3 practices since coming into the league in 2002.
- One of my major concerns coming into this season was depth at ILB and when Bart went down, I was certainly holding my breathe. While we’re all rooting for Bart to come back soon and healthy, it was a pleasant surprise to see Josh Mauga come in for Bart and on his first two plays have a tackle for a loss and sack.
- The most glaring struggle of the Jets defense was covering RB’s and FB’s. Running-backs and Full-backs accounted for 9 of the Texans' 16 completions. While you’d certainly expect a higher completion percentage to RB’s and FB’s given the depth of their typical routes, the numbers in the Texans game were stark. The Texans' Quarterbacks completed 82% of their passes to RB’s and FB’s and just 35% of their passes to WR’s and TE’s.
- The most glaring struggle of the Jets offense was their offensive line. In all fairness to them, they didn’t have Mangold or Moore but their performance was nonetheless poor and cost Rob Turner about 3 months. Ducasse obviously needs to step his game up significantly. I feel for the guy in that he keeps getting shuffled around from position to position but the coaches wouldn’t be doing that unless they thought he could handle it. After the one play where he was beaten badly to the outside, the ‘b’ word started floating around in my head. However, after the heat of the game, I shed those thoughts. For one, on that particular play, Rex mentioned in one of his press conferences this week that they went to a silent count without Ducasse knowing. He was beaten so badly because he didn’t know the ball was snapped. Also, offensive lineman can take a while to develop. We all knew Ducasse was a developmental project when he was drafted. We can take some comfort in knowing that he has one of the best offensive line coaches in football. Wayne Hunter has been in the league since 2003 and never started a game until he started once for the Jets in 2009. Last year he had 4 starts and this year, he’ll hopefully start 19.
- I like Westhoff’s kick return strategy of returning kickoff’s even from deep within the endzone. I’ll probably write another post on this later. Kerley is going to be fun to watch.
- I thought Shonn Greene looked good. He had a nice run and it was great to see him catch a ball out of the backfield.
- I thought Joe McKnight looked pretty good though the play-calling for him could have been better. He ran a lot between the tackles and I think he’d be better utilized on the edges where he can leverage his quickness in space. Also, there's no way he should be expected to block an untouched rushing LB with a full head of steam - someone should have at least chipped Reed before he got to McKnight. McKnight didn't even slow Reed down; it was like a fly hitting a windshield.
- When the rosters are as big as they are for the first preseason game, I know it’s nearly impossible to work everyone in but I was really hoping to see what Scotty McKnight in action. Hopefully he’ll get some targets this Sunday evening against the Bengals.
- I am very pleased with how Greg McElroy played. I wrote a post before the Jets draft stating that they should draft a QB and I was thrilled when they drafted McElroy. He's knows how to win - he won the Texas state championships in High School and a National Championship in College. His accuracy and smarts remind me of Chad Pennington. In the Texans game, he reminded me of another Jet, Ken O’Brien, in that he showed he's as tough as nails. He got pummeled when he first got in the game. On the play where he fumbled, with the way his head hit the turf, I thought for sure that he sustained a concussion. With about 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, I thought the Jets did a good job of adjusting their play-calling. They gave him a bunch of short dump-off passes to gain some momentum and confidence while slowing down the Texans' pass-rush. For only spending a couple of weeks at an NFL training camp, I thought he was remarkably poised and had a natural command of the game. Furthermore, I'd be curious to see if he could improve his accuracy even more if he didn’t take helmet-wearing advice from John Hall. I think he'll be great in the quarterbacks room and will become a more-than-adequate back-up for Sanchez. Playing back-up is something that McElroy has done before. In High School, as a sophomore and junior, McElroy backed-up Chase Daniel, who later contended for the Heisman Trophy while playing for the Missouri Tigers. I'm very glad he's a Jet.
- It’s tough to zero in on non-skill players when watching the game on TV but it looked to me like Kenrick Ellis held his own. I’m looking forward to seeing the Jets play Bengals in person to watch him more closely. Lineman are obviously coached to get their hands in the air to disrupt passing lanes when they don’t get penetration but it’s not too often that they successfully knock down a pass. It was nice to see Ellis do it and it might be an indication that he has some good natural instincts. We know he has the frame and the Monday Night Football broadcast crew was quick to point out Ellis’ unusual speed, range and motor for a big man. All this gives us good reason to get excited about him. That said, I'm still bummed that Jenkins is no longer our man in the middle.
- Cumberland looks like he could make some nice contributions to the team this year. I think both Cumberland and Keller will benefit from having Tom Moore on the coaching staff. Moore loves to utilize his TE's. Cumberland caught 6 of the 8 passes that were thrown in his direction and averaged almost 13 yards per reception.
In the upcoming Bengals game, I expect the offensive line will play significantly better. I also expect that the RB's and FB's won't have nearly bonanza that the Texans' backs had receiving the ball. I'm looking forward to seeing McElroy throw the ball downfield more and to see which WR's step up and seize their opportunity. The Texans only averaged 2.2 yards per rush against the Jets. I'd like to see the Jets young defensive line have another solid outing.