Time for the Preseason Game 3 recap.
This wasn't pretty football. At times, you had to question whether this was football at all. This was funky. And ugly. Fugly. Yep, this was fugly. One fascinating-the-way-a-train-wreck-is-fascinating-how-did-we-possibly-come-out-on-top-in-this-farce kind of win.
Geno Smith got the long anticipated start and had a chance to win the starting job outright. Alas, it wasn't to be. Smith came out and on the first play of the game got his pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage. On the second play his pass was tipped and fell incomplete. On his third play he threw a nine yard pass when the Jets needed ten for the first down. Three and out, two passes defensed by the Giants defensive line. Shades of Mark Sanchez. It was an unfortunate portent of fugly things to come. But things could be worse.
They quickly were worse. First play from scrimmage for the Giants, handoff to speedy back David Wilson. Wilson bursts through the hole, cuts outside and is in a footrace with Jets defensive backs. Advantage, Giants. 84 yards for the TD. It's like 2012 never really ended. First the bad passing sequence, then a speedy back burns the slower Jets for a long TD run. Are we stuck in a time warp here? Not to worry though, things could be worse. And soon they would be.
But first, Geno recovers from his opening three and out sequence and promptly takes the Jets on a brilliant 86 yard drive in which he cleverly forces the Giants into 4 straight penalties for a total of 33 yards. The drive ends with a strike to Ben Obomanu who takes it to the house and just like that it's a tie game and Geno is looking like the QB the Jets desperately need. It wouldn't last.
The Jets quickly snuff out the Giants' next drive, then trade 3 and outs with Big Blue. On the next Jets' possession, the roof begins to cave in for Geno. On the first play of the drive Geno throws a pass downfield to Ryan Spadola who has beaten his man and is set up for a big play if he is hit in stride. Unfortunately Geno throws the ball well behind Spadola, allowing Giants CB Prince Amukamara to close the gap and get inside position on Spadola, resulting in an interception. It would not be the last.
On the next Jets drive Geno gets pressured and airmails a pass right to the Giants' defensive back for interception number 2. Two drives later Geno fails to see Justin Tuck drop in coverage and throws a pass right to him for interception number 3. Failure to read the coverage, interceptions thrown right to defensive linemen, interceptions thrown directly to the defensive back and nowhere w/in 5 yards of a Jets target, multiple turnovers in a half - this is a nightmare of a first half for Smith. It looks very much like Sanchez at his worst. And Jets fans everywhere are left wondering, can't anyone here play this position?
Geno manages to recover enough in the second half to lead a nifty 57 yard drive on the Jets' first possession of the third quarter, highlighted by a couple of completions to Ben Obomanu and capped by a wildcat jaunt into the end zone by Bilal Powell. That would be the last glimpse of hope from Geno on this day. The Jets offense would not score again until Geno was out of the game, with his last play being an embarrassing run out of the back of the end zone for a safety early in the 4th quarter. It was a bad ending to a worse day for Geno Smith.
While he made some nifty throws into some tight windows and threw the ball accurately and with zip at times, the overall performance was a disaster. Yes, it was the kind of disaster we should expect from rookie QBs. Nothing we saw was necessarily indicative of a poor future for young Mr. Smith. But for a fanbase starved for even mediocre QB play and sick unto death of watching Sanchez murder the position it was a bitter pill to swallow. It was pretty clear Geno is not yet ready to lead the Jets on Sunday. Geno had a chance to win the job, and ended up losing it, at least for the moment.
That moment was brief indeed. Within minutes Mark Sanchez was sacked and hit hard in his throwing shoulder. The resultant shoulder injury not only forced him out of the game but may have put his availability for Game 1 of the regular season in jeopardy. We'll know more about the injury soon enough, but just like that Geno may have regained the lead in the race to the bottom the Jets have managed to produce for the starting QB job.
The rest of the game produced some truly bizarre moments. Giants coach Tom Coughlin incredibly, inexplicably made the weird decision at the end of regulation on 4th down to kick a field goal to tie the game. Then on the ensuing Jets possession the Jets get to 4th down with 17 seconds left, and Coughlin, treating the situation with all the must win significance it so richly deserved, opts to call a timeout, desperately trying to find a way to pull out the crucial preseason victory. High fives all around as we are treated to additional overtime action in one of the worst played meaningless football games in recent memory. I don't know about you, but the new 15 minutes on the clock watching 3rd and 4th stringers botch the game of football to an unrecognizable mess sent shivers of sheer delight up my spine. In a bit of bad karma, the Giant's kickoff returner Scott sustained an injury on the opening kickoff return in OT.
Matt Simms produced the best QB performance of the day for the Jets, taking the Jets on a late TD drive in regulation punctuated by a gorgeous strike to Spadola in the end zone, and winning the game with a drive for a field goal in overtime. Winning the prize for best Jets QB of the game was not exactly a major accomplishment, but Simms may have won himself a roster spot in the process. There is at least a legitimate competition for the third QB spot on the Jets now, even if it is difficult to imagine how anyone can't beat out the top 2.
In other developments unrelated to the abomination that is the Jets' QB situation, the defense played well after giving up that initial long TD run by Wilson. After that first play of the game the Jets defense limited the Giants talented offense to less than 240 total yards. They managed to keep the Giants out of the end zone the rest of the night, limited Eli Manning to a miserable 8 of 20 and a 53 passer rating, and racked up 4 sacks on the night.
Players playing particularly well on defense were Damon Harrison, Darrin Walls, and as usual, Antonio Cromartie and Big Mo Wilkerson.
Damon Harrison played his finest game as a pro. He was active, looked athletic, and was in the Giants' backfield all night. For the first time since he's been a Jet, Harrison looked like a legitimate starting nose tackle. Kenrick Ellis may not be the starting nose tackle much longer.
Darrin Walls continued his brilliant preseason. He was picked off his coverage momentarily by another Jets DB and gave up a 16 yard reception. He also gave up another harmless 5 yard reception in tight coverage. Other than those two plays he was nearly perfect, playing tight man to man coverage and blanketing his man, something he has done consistently all preseason. Right now he is our second best cornerback and should be starting over both Wilson and Milliner, but he won't due to their 1st round draft status.
Sheldon Richardson also impressed with his play and made Eli Manning miserable while he was in the game, applying relentless pressure, picking up a sack and putting Manning on his back on at least one other occasion. Richardson looks like he is going to be a real beast when he fully develops.
Leger Douzable put in a nice performance with 2 tackles, 2 assists and a sack. He has probably made the team.
Jacquies Smith managed to pick up a sack for the second consecutive game and may be in the process of winning a roster spot.
On the downside for the defense, Kyle Wilson had a complete nightmare of a game, repeatedly getting beat and committing multiple penalties. He looked like a 3rd stringer out there. It was not Wilson's finest moment, and if the competition mantra was genuine, this performance, combined with Walls' consistent excellence all through the preseason, should put Wilson's starting job in jeopardy. But that is likely only a pipe dream.
Antonio Allen was repeatedly burned in coverage. His starting spot should be in danger. Jaiquawn Jarrettt could hardly do much worse.
Antonio Garay's only playing time came in mop up duty with the scrubs. He has hardly played all preseason, and when he has played he has had zero impact. Approaching 34 years old, Garay's roster spot is very much in danger. I would not be surprised to see him cut as early as the first cutdown day, August 27, when rosters are reduced to 75.
On offense, other than horrendous QB play, a few good things came out of this game. Ryan Spadola had a big game with 3 catches for 110 yards and a TD. His big game was tempered somewhat by his less than stellar effort to avoid Geno's first interception, allowing Amukamara to take the ball essentially uncontested, but overall his night may have been good enough to cement a roster spot.
Ben Obomanu also had a big night with 56 yards and a TD. He played quite a bit early on with the first stringers. It looks as if he may play a larger role in the offense than originally planned, although Santonio Holmes' return might limit any such opportunity. At any rate, he has probably done enough to make the team.
Stephen Hill was more of a factor than at any time since Opening Day last year. He finally beat the coverage over the top for a long pass completion, something for which he was being counted on since he was drafted but rarely produced. Then he ruined it all with a terrible turnover. Hill is looking less and less likely to have a big impact in the passing game this year, particularly if Holmes manages to avoid the PUP.
The running game continued to be unimpressive. Chris Ivory again showed little of his supposedly impressive talent. He did have one nice reception and run after the catch, but it was mostly a quiet night for Ivory, as well as for his backfield mates.
At tight end Jeff Cumberland seemed to get less playing time than usual, and Kellen Winslow picked up the slack with 4 catches for 35 yards. Winslow may no longer be a super athletic target, but he is still a reliable one, and will likely play a big role in the offense if he can manage to stay healthy. Konrad Reuland was playing late in the game with the scrubs and Hayden Smith, he of the uncoverable in the offseason reviews, was once again missing in action. It is becoming pretty clear Hayden Smith is unlikely to make this team.
Neither one of our kickers seem able to produce minimally competent field goal accuracy, as Nick Folk missed back to back 39 yard attempts (one was after being iced by Tom Coughlin in a particularly wacky preseason football decision). Billy Cundiff followed that with his own missed 39 yarder in overtime (again nullified by the crazy Coughlin icing strategy) before finally, mercifully putting the game out of its misery with a successful 32 yard attempt. It looks like Folk may once again win his position "battle" by default. So it goes.
That monstrosity of a game was the last dress rehearsal for most of the starters before Opening Day. It was not a dress rehearsal that inspired confidence in what lies ahead. About the best we can say is thank goodness the preseason is drawing to an end and the real games start soon. If the Jets are going to be bad, at least we can watch them being bad in games that count. It is small consolation, but it is all there is on offer after suffering through Saturday's travesty. Ready or not (probably not), bring on the Bucs and let's get it on.