The Jets opened up the preseason with a 7-3 win over the Titans. How did each position do as a group to kick things off?
Quarterbacks - Josh McCown opened up with a terrific quick touchdown drive, looking very confident and decisive with his throws. The highlight was a very well placed 50+ yard bomb to Robby Anderson, followed by a short red zone touchdown to Charone Peake. His time was limited, but if anything he provided himself a little more cushion in the race for the starting spot.
Christian Hackenberg finally got a chance to redeem himself after the disaster in Philly nearly a year ago. While the offense was extremely conservative and unproductive (no points) with him in there, he looked way ahead of where he was last year, and showed a base he can build off of to unlock his potential. Even though his yards per attempt was a very poor 5.1, Hackenberg was on time and accurate on almost all of his throws, completing 72% with a handful of easy drops for would-be first downs mixed in. His footwork and mechanics were much improved, as even when he was off, he wasn’t airmailing passes into the crowd or throwing them at the turf. He was missing in places where he wasn’t risking an interception, a good sign. This may seem like praising a child for meeting the simple expectations of daily life, but Hackenberg was a young rookie with a huge adjustment curve to fulfill his immense potential that was based off of things like IQ, size, and arm strength. None of those things matter without solid mechanics and consistency. Last year, he showed no sign of having either. Now, it seems as if he has a base to build on. This was his first game in a year’s time with a new system and almost entirely new group of linemen, receivers, and running backs. There’s definitely still a long way to go for him, and the overall production in this game was certainly not ideal. Substantial progress has never been a bad thing though.
Bryce Petty got limited time with the third team and struggled, missing on a couple easy throws and doing nothing of note.
Running Backs - I was very disappointed in the running backs. With Matt Forte and Bilal Powell out, younger backs got a shot, and not only were they unimpressive, they were hurtful to the team’s production. Elijah McGuire got the start, while Jordan Todman and Romar Morris relieved him. The line play was not good, but they combined for 47 yards on 26 carries (1.8 per carry), failing to make many people miss or grind out some extra yards. There were also at least a couple instances of poor pass protection, specifically one play on which Todman and Algernon Brown were both beat for a sack on Hackenberg while the line actually held up.
In the pass game, they combined for 4 catches gaining 6 yards. As the competition is open for any weapon to emerge on this offense, this group failed to make any positive impressions with the top two players on the depth chart sitting out. The Jets figure to rely on the run game a lot this year to keep things conservative (31 runs to 35 passes in this game), and right now it seems very scary to imagine if any of these guys are touching the ball for extended time this year.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - It was a decent outing for the pass catchers. There were a few drops, but nothing destructive. Nobody really stood out, but it was encouraging to see the ball spread around so much, as 17 different players were targeted and 15 of them made a catch. Robby Anderson did flash early, toasting Logan Ryan for a huge 50+ yard gain making a tremendous over the shoulder grab on a nice pass from McCown. He caught all three of his targets for 71 yards, very much looking the part of a #1 receiver. When given space, he can run by anyone, and his ball skills are really good. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts when teams press him. In addition it was encouraging to see the involvement of the tight ends. Quarterbacks were 3 for 3 for 27 yards targeting Jason Vander Laan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Jordan Leggett. If this happened last year, by this time in the morning the streets in Midtown would already be closed for a parade down Broadway. Frankie Hammond caught some eyes with a 38 yard kick return and 12 yard punt return, while also leading the team with 5 targets. He flashed some quickness with the ball in his hands. Charone Peake also scored the game’s only touchdown.
The Jets’ receiving group is as unproven as you will ever see in the NFL, and production might be hard to come by early. However, this is a young group with untapped potential that is going to have every opportunity to secure playing time, naturally creating a far more competitive environment than usual. Some contributors are going to emerge, and there seems that there might be a little bit of real promise in this group aside from the fact that we just don’t know who they are yet.
Offensive Line - It’s tough to evaluate the offensive line in preseason as guys consistently rotate in and out, but it wasn’t a good performance from this unit today throughout. Tennessee managed only two sacks, but that was mitigated by the Jets’ quick passing attack. There was little, if any, room to work in the run game. Reserve center Jonotthan Harrison also botched a snap on a miscommunication with Hackenberg that led to a turnover. There were also two penalties. Overall, this line needs to be better if the Jets are going to make anything happen on offense, both in the run and pass game. Check out this run play in the second quarter. It looks like nobody wins their matchup except for #83, tight end Eric Tomlinson.
I don’t think this game is too far off from what we might see often from the Jets this year. A very conservative offense designed to limit turnovers that ultimately might not produce much due to lack of talent. It’s never right to draw conclusions for a unit as a whole in the preseason, but here’s what I would take away from this game as valuable on offense:
- Christian Hackenberg has made positive strides in the last year
- This figures to be a very conservative West Coast style offense
- The depth at running back is very concerning
- The Jets are going to use their tight ends, and they could actually be good
What were your thoughts on the Jets offense?