On Friday night the New York Jets lost their first game of the preseason to the Detroit Lions 26-17 at Ford Field. Here are some of my notes from the game.
1) The best and worst of Sanchez- While in the midst of a fierce quarterback competition you saw the best and worst of Mark Sanchez. In the first quarter Sanchez (10-13 125 yards) threw a horrendous interception for a touchdown (off a screen pass) that gave everyone in Jets nation flashbacks to the 2012 season. Mark then followed that turnover with a questionable throw that could have gone for another pick six if Kellen Winslow did not light up the defensive player. Ready to anoint Geno Smith? Not so fast. On the next series Sanchez beautifully engineered a 80-yard scoring drive capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland.
There are two ways to look at Mark’s performance. The excuse: The early mistakes were a part of shaking off the rust and learning a new offense in live action for the first time. Same old Sanchez: New offense, same ridiculous mistakes which are completely unacceptable for a starting quarterback in the NFL.
My take: It was good to see Mark Sanchez spreading the ball around the field and it appears that he has a good grasp of the offense. I am not ready to make him the starting quarterback but he is definitely improving under the tutelag of Marty Mornhinweg and David Lee.
2) Geno learning the ropes- Geno Smith saw some action on Friday night (6/7 47 yards) but left the game with an ankle injury. As of now the reports are that Smith will be able to play next Saturday. Geno appeared to be poised in the pocket but did not make any big splash plays that some were looking for or possibly expecting. It is going to take some time for Geno Smith to get used to the speed of the game and to feel comfortable with all of his reads.
The one interesting development was the play of Greg McElroy as he replaced the injured Geno Smith. McElroy displayed an excellent command of the offense and was hitting receivers under a heavy pass rush. I am not ready to add Greg to the quarterback competition but his performance (11/19 145 yards 1 td) was very hard to ignore.
3) Offensive line struggles- One of the biggest surprises to come out of Friday night’s game was the performance of the offensive line. The entire unit, including the second and third string, had issues in terms of blocking and pass protection. Far too often ball carriers and quarterbacks were getting lit up and this has to be a concern. Veterans Stephen Peterman and Willie Colon were flagged for penalties and at times were getting pushed around. With rookie Brian Winters nursing an injury the Jets should strongly consider bringing in some line help.
4) Griffin hurt, Spann to get more time? The Jets running back group has become a mash unit as John Griffin was seriously hurt in Friday night’s game. With Chris Ivory and Joe McKnight already sitting out with injuries the Jets gave Chad Spann and Mossis Madu a chance to earn some reps. I was not overly impressed with Madu but Spann showed some explosiveness and shiftiness that could be useful in the west coast offense. Note: Fullback Tommy Bohanon did an excellent job playing the fullback position in place of the injured Lex Hilliard. Keep an eye on this kid as he could make the roster due to his versatility.
5) Receiving group improving- One of the biggest concerns heading into the preseason was the level of talent at the wide receiver position. If the game against the Lions is any indication the Jets may have some improved talent at the position. Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Ben Obomanu, Braylon Edwards, and Ryan Spadola all contributed and it will be interesting to how this battle for reps will play out.
6) Finally a creative offense- Even though the Jets did not game plan for the Lions, there was an obvious change in the offensive philosophy. Marty Mornhinweg’s offense is all about high completion percentages and getting receivers open in space. This is a refreshing change from a stagnant philosophy where plays are forced and predictable.
7) Aggressive defense– As expected Rex Ryan’s defense looked explosive and aggressive on Friday night. It is apparent that the Jets have added much needed speed to the unit with guys like Antwan Barnes, Demario Davis, and Sheldon Richardson. Now it is a matter of getting all of these new faces on the same page prior to week one of the regular season.
8) The Wilson swag is back- Kyle Wilson was in his mid-season taunting form (even when he did not make a play on the ball) but his performance was still a bit shaky. Rookie Dee Milliner (who showed some glimpses Friday night) will be playing opposite Antonio Cromartie but I think that there is chance that Wilson could be supplanted by a guy like Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, or Darrin Walls if he continues to lose coverage.
9) Jarrett bringing the heat- The battle for the second safety position is heating up as Jaiquawn Jarrett appeared to outplay Antonio Allen by making several physical plays and big hits. Following the game Rex Ryan stated that Jarrett will be starting next Saturday night.
10) Rex did not see the offense? Following the game Rex Ryan was asked about the Mark Sanchez pick six and the performance of Geno Smith. Ryan commented that he did not see either as he was busy dealing with his defense. Rex please tell me that this was a calculated comment just to avoid scrutinizing the quarterbacks. This is the first game of the preseason and your offense (which has been dreadful the last 2 years)has to be the focus especially considering the fact that there is a heated quarterback competition taking place. An argument can be made that Ryan’s job could be contingent on the performance of the offensive unit. Again I hope this was Rex trying to avoid commenting on the quarterbacks. Going forward Ryan should at least acknowledge that the offense was on the field and not come off like a glorified defensive coordinator.