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Second Game Thoughts

The value of preseason has been on full display the past few weeks. The Jets lost last week, but most people felt positively about how the team played. Tonight the reverse will likely be true. Gang Green got into the win column, but some aspects were not pretty. Below are my thoughts.

-Mark Sanchez was not great, going 5 for 10. I don't think he was as terrible as most will claim. Carolina seemed to be covering the Jets' receivers well. I'm not sure there was much on the table for him. His pass protection was also very spotty. There were two bad throws. The first was a throw into coverage near Braylon Edwards that was almost intercepted. The second was a busted screen where Sanchez didn't get it over a lineman. It was deflected. It is his job to get it over his head. Those are three big mistakes in less than one full game of preseason action. These may not sound like a lot, but one bad throw resulting in an interception per game makes 16 for the year, which is a lot.

-LaDainian Tomlinson looked explosive again. Jets fans need to hope an analogy of the difference between a sprinter and a distance runner is accurate for LT. In San Diego Tomlinson was a distance runner as a featured back. He could not go at full speed on every play because his tank would end up empty. With the Jets he will get plenty of rest and can go at full speed when he touches it. Maybe that will be the difference between success and a lack of it. There have only been two preseason games, but it has looked that way so far.

-The starting offensive line looked bad. They were responsible for most of the bad on the offense. I'm not going to worry. This is a great unit.

-Despite the unit's struggles, I thought number 68 Matt Slauson looked good. He got beaten badly on one passing down but was pretty consistent aside from it. He held up well as a pass blocker. He got a push in the run game. He pulled a few times. When the second team came in, he flipped to left guard. The Jets ran consistently behind him in that role.

-If there was a real competition at the position, I do not think Slauson would have spent both games playing the entire time with the first unit.

-How can Nick Folk gain trust? How about 3 for 3 on field goals with a pair from beyond 40 yards and 3 of 4 kickoffs in the end zone? I generally think preseason is useless. Kickers are one spot where I would make an exception. It is pretty close to the real thing. The pressure might not be the same as the real thing, but nobody is holding anything back. He had a great night.

-The Jets showed a lot more zone than they usually do on third down. Is this going to be a new theme to compensate for the lack of one Mr. Revis? Is it putting a red herring on film for regular season opponents? Is it just a preseason experiment? My money would be on number three.

-Jim Leonhard picked off a pass and recorded a sack. Get used to him being in the middle of big plays.

-Antonio Cromartie looked solid against the run tonight.

-I love Vladimir Ducasse's potential. I think Bill Callahan is the right man to mold him. I would also be surprised if he played a positive role for the Jets in 2010. He doesn't look comfortable with the scheme, his new position, or the speed of NFL players. He is not consistent. He got better when the Panthers put their backups in, but he was uneven at best.

-Dwight Lowery had a nice bounce back game despite a penalty. He broke up some passes.

-I have seen nothing in two games to suggest Mark Brunell is better than Kellen Clemens. He looks comfortable making no throws except checkdowns.

-A pair of backup linebackers Kenwin Cummings and Jamaal Westerman both were in the middle of a lot of plays. I think these guys are quietly going to give the team good depth at the position this year.

-Vernon Gholston looked very good. He was consistently winning his matchups. He made a lot of plays and appeared to draw a holding call in the first half. Am I convinced he is going to contribute this year? No, remember this is only the preseason against backups. I will say if nothing else that he looked better in this game than I can remember him in any preseason contest in the past few years. I still don't see what the team is talking about when they say he has a new role. I'm not seeing him line up at defensive end in a gap maintaining position. I'm seeing him rush the passer sometimes and drop into coverage sometimes both standing up and with his hand down.

-Joe McKnight seemed to improve. He looked more decisive finding his holes. He is still a work in progress. His fumble showed he still needs to get used to the way guys claw for the ball until the play is over (and after) in the NFL, but he did look better.

-I like the way the Jets are using McKnight. They are trying to teach him how to be a more complete back by teaching him how to run between the tackles. His 68 yard punt return was a reminder, though, that he will be most effective when Brian Schottenheimer can figure out how to get him the ball in space.

-Jeff Cumberland had a nice night with 2 catches for 19 yards. That actually made him the leading receiver.

-Steve Weatherford had a clutch 59 yard punt from the back of the end zone. That's what you like to see out of a punter.

-Of Carolina's three turnovers on punt returns, the first two were unforced errors. The Jets should get credit for hustling. The third was caused by Chauncey Washington's big hit. Washington should be ahead of sentimental favorite Danny Woodhead for both contributing on special teams and showing he can drive the pile. Woodhead hasn't shown he can do either. Like McKnight, Washington needs work holding onto the ball.


In conclusion, the quarterbacks weren't good. Neither was most of the offensive line. A lot of other guys were solid. It's not the worst thing in the world for the team to have a bad preseason game. I think back to 2002 when the Jets couldn't do anything wrong in preseason and promptly bombed the start of the regular season. Games like this can refocus a team and remind it to work on fundamentals. That's why it's preseason. The main thing for me is that there were no injuries to major players. That makes this game a success to me.