I don’t want to overstate the importance of tonight’s preseason opener. A month from now it is likely that nobody will remember a single thing that happened. Still there are some hopes all of us likely have. Here are mind.
Number one: No key injuries
At the end of the night, nothing that happens on the field will count toward either team’s 2021 record. The most last impact could be if the Jets suffer an injury to a key player. Don’t get me wrong. I would prefer to see the Jets play well to seeing them play poorly. Ultimately, though, I’d take a dismal effort with no key players lost to a brilliant performance where either one important piece has to miss any time.
Number two: Mistake free football from Zach Wilson
This is a bit selfish because ten years from now nobody will remember or care how Wilson performed in this game. It will have zero effect on his career trajectory. Nobody will accept this reality tomorrow morning, however. I just don’t want to hear Jets fans panicked after a bad debut. There’s an old expression that for rookie quarterbacks, any drive that ends in a kick is a success whether it’s a punt, a field goal attempt, or an extra point. The statement itself is a bit of a stretch. A rookie quarterback who sees every single drive end in a punt isn’t going to be happy with his performance. The key to the statement is avoiding turnovers, and there is some value there. Take away Sam Darnold’s tendency to commit ridiculous turnovers, and I think there is a real possibility he gets a fourth season. My hope for Wilson tonight is simple. Just avoid big mistakes. Anything else is a bonus.
Number three: Denzel Mims stepping up
Mims has been one of the stories of training camp and not in a good way. Numerous writers have noted his work primarily has come with the second and third team offenses. The Jets have a crowded receiver room this year. Being an early pick alone isn’t enough to be handed a starting job with this type of talent on the roster. Mims might get a greater opportunity with Elijah Moore’s status unclear. One big night could help to wipe out weeks of frustration.
Number four: Somebody looking the part at cornerback
I feel like we don’t discuss enough how shaky the Jets’ cornerback situation looks on paper. It’s not just that the team lacks a single cornerback with a track record. There aren’t any early round picks on the roster either. The team is relying on a bunch of late rounders and undrafted free agents. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the team is relying on the coaching staff to develop these guys. It would be nice to see a couple of standouts at the position tonight.
Number five: Kicking perfection
Speaking of positions where things are unsettled, the Jets’ kicking situation is totally up in the air. Incumbent Sam Ficken is gone after two inconsistent seasons and a terrible start to training camp. Two young and unproven players are in his place competing for the job. It isn’t clear the opening day kicker is currently on the roster, but it would be nice to see the young guys put us at ease.