(Image credit Corey Sipkin/ New York Post)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
The New York Jets' first preseason game is Saturday, August 14th where they will face the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Even though it is the preseason I am extremely excited that football is back. The preseason can determine which players will or will not make the 53 man roster and showcase how the rookies' development is going as of now. It can also showcase what plays are working and which are not. The preseason provides the opportunity for the coaches to adapt with their plays and prepare for the regular season. There are 10 things that we should look forward to with the New York Jets' first preseason game.
1. The return of fans at MetLife Stadium
I got to be honest even though last season was a brutal season for the New York Jets, what makes the bad seasons better is fans being at MetLife Stadium. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all Jets and Giants home games had to be played with no fans in attendance. That made both teams' bad seasons feel more negative than they did as the fan aspect of the game was taken from us. Now with this upcoming season, The Jets and Giants are finally allowed to have fans come to MetLife Stadium and watch their games. Even though the Giants will be the home team in the first preseason game it will feel good seeing fans at full capacity at MetLife Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season.
2. The Debut of Robert Saleh on the Jets Sidelines
The New York Jets have not had success finding a good head coach since Rex Ryan was fired. Todd Bowles' tenure as the head coach was a flop and Adam Gase’s tenure was a predictable disaster from the start. The newly hired head coach for the 2021 season is former San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. I have more confidence that this hire will work more than Todd Bowles and Adam Gase combined. When news broke of the signing I was relieved and excited. I have never seen a coach receive such praise from multiple different players and people from the 49ers organization. Even 49ers players Richard Sherman, Joe Staley, and Robbie Gould voiced their happiness on the Jets hiring him as their head coach. Right from Saleh's introductory press conference and the calls made to prospects selected during the 2021 NFL Draft you can tell Saleh has the charisma and enthusiasm that an organization wants from a head coach. Todd Bowles and Adam Gase never had that during their time with the Jets. Robert Saleh has brought a level of excitement that we as Jets fans never felt in a long time. I am truly excited to see Saleh on the sidelines coaching this season and in the first preseason game vs the Giants.
3. The first glimpse of newly signed free agent players
It has been a while since I have been excited about the free-agent class brought in by the New York Jets. With Joe Douglas, he has decided to spend his money properly and not spend it all on one single player like Mike Maccagnan did with Le'Veon Bell, Spencer Long, and Trumaine Johnson. There are only two players that Joe Douglas signed to a multi-million dollar deal for many years and those players are Wide Receiver Corey Davis and Defensive End/EDGE rusher, Carl Lawson. Lawson has been a player that has dominated throughout training camp and I can't wait to see him play for the team and luckily we get to see him play for a small part of preseason games. Even bringing in Sheldon Rankins to strengthen the Jets' defensive line was a smart move. For the defense, the Jets signed Vinny Curry, Jarrad Davis, and Lamarcus Joyner to one-year contracts. For the offense, Joe Douglas signed Keelan Cole, Tevin Coleman, Dan Feeney, Tyler Kroft, and Morgan Moses to one-year contracts. I am excited to see how these free agents will perform for the team but what is exciting about the preseason is that we get a little glimpse of their play. Hopefully, these new additions to the team won't get hurt in the preseason.
4. The first glimpse of Zach Wilson
It has been many years since the New York Jets have had a franchise quarterback for the team. They almost had it with Sam Darnold but Adam Gase and the Jets organization ruined him by poor coaching and the GM failing to give him talent around him. It was too late as it was clear that his confidence was shattered and he was not the long-term answer for the team. The team later traded him to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 6th, a 2022 4th, and a 2022 2nd round draft pick. The Jets held the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft where they selected quarterback Zach Wilson. Thus restarting the rebuilding process for the Jets. This Saturday we will get a little glimpse of Wilson. Especially, as he will be the Week 1 starter for the Jets. Hopefully, Zach Wilson is the answer and becomes a franchise QB for this team.
5. How the running backs will be utilized
The running backs have been a complete mess for the New York Jets for multiple years. During the Adam Gase Era, the utilization of the running backs was completely disorganized as shown with his treatment of players like Le'Veon Bell, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine. With the addition of Robert Saleh as the new head coach, he has handled the running back position publicly a lot better than Adam Gase ever did in his 2 years as the head coach. The Jets even made smart moves during the offseason to strengthen the running back core. Signing Tevin Coleman to a one-year contract and using a 4th round pick on Michael Carter. This created a competitive battle for the starting running back position. Michael Carter has been a name that has heavily impressed players and was even taking snaps with the first-team offense. I am extremely excited to see how the running backs will be utilized properly during game time as this year's offense will be more of a run-based offense in offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur's offense than former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggins, oh I mean Adam Gase’s offensive system.
6. A look at Joe Douglas’s two-year project in a rebranded offensive line.
I got, to be honest, this is the first time in years that I have a lot of confidence in the offensive line since the D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold years. Joe Douglas did a fantastic job improving the offensive line throughout his tenure. Especially with the selection of Mekhi Becton who has been my favorite player on the Jets roster for the past few years and should be a New York Jet for his entire football career. Connor McGovern has been the best center the New York Jets have had on their roster since Nick Mangold. I love the Alijah Vera-Tucker selection as well for the Jets as they had a big hole at both guard positions on the offense. It is important to note that he is dealing with a pectoral injury and might miss the first preseason game. George Fant and Morgan Moses will be battling for the starting role at right tackle. The biggest question mark is at right guard but the Jets have a lot of depth on the offensive line to choose from. It will definitely be something to watch in this preseason game. What I want to see though is how this offensive line will work together as a team? How will the new additions perform?
7. The yearly battle for the starting tight end spot
The battle to find the answer to the tight end position continues again. In fact, I don't think the Jets have had a consistently good tight end since the Mickey Shuler years. Dustin Keller was their closest chance but injuries and inconsistent play by Keller affected that. Even though it is a consistent position battle it is still the most interesting part of preseason games with the Jets. Especially as us fans want to see if the answer to the tight end issues is on this roster. Tyler Kroft, Daniel Brown, Ryan Griffin, Kenny Yeboah, and Chris Herndon will be the players fighting for the chance as the starting tight end. Tyler Kroft was signed in free agency and I am interested to see what he can do if he stays healthy. Ryan Griffin showed flashes before he signed an extension with the team and will need to rebound the next few weeks to secure a spot on the roster. One option that interests me is Kenny Yeboah as he has been a name that has impressed the coaching staff during training camp and It will be extremely exciting to see him in action on the football field.
8. The Experimental Players' first test.
During the preseason it is the best time to have experiments going on to see what works and doesn't for both the league and teams. For the NFL, preseason will be a time to test new rules that will be implemented in the regular season. For the New York Jets, there are two players they took in the 2021 NFL Draft that they are going to experiment with and those players are Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen. In this experiment, both players are going to be switching from playing as safety to linebackers. It is an interesting move to make but it makes a lot of sense. In the film, I have seen of both players they clearly would be a better fit as linebackers than at safety. But while they would be a better fit in a different position it is going to be difficult switching different positions. The experiment of both players will have their first test on Saturday against the New York Giants. It will be very exciting to see what happens in their first preseason game as linebackers. Now the question is whether this experiment will become a success or a failure in the next few weeks?
9. Who will step up in the Secondary?
The secondary is easily the weakest part of the entire team. Especially with how weak the cornerback positions are for the Jets and the question marks involving Marcus Maye’s holdout and Ashtyn Davis being unsurprisingly injured with no timetable for when he will return. Excluding Lamarcus Joyner at Safety the secondary position is full of unknowns for Week 1. Except for Bless Austin and Bryce Hall, the cornerbacks are full of unknown and unproven players. Some players have impressed the coaching staff during training camp including Isaiah Dunn but the first test will come Saturday against the Giants in the first preseason game. Preseason is the best time for players to showcase themselves and step up to solve those unknowns. Who in the secondary will step up and show that they can perform well on this team?
10. Kicker position battle
As I said in my Defensive/Special Teams position battle article the kicker position since Nick Folk left the New York Jets has been a rotational door. The two kickers that are battling for the role as the Jets kicker are Matt Ammendola and Chris Nagger who were both undrafted free agents. This is going to be an extremely important battle during the offseason as a kicker can be the one player that can give a team a win or a loss. There has been a lot of hype and confidence by coaches with Chris Nagger. It showed with the release of Sam Ficken. But remember Kaare Vedvik had a lot of hype and confidence during his tenure with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent. He was later traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a 5th round pick and didn't even last a month with the organization. Let's hope that Nagger lives up to the hype in the preseason or if Ammendola can pull the upset and win the starting role.