Our man Bob Glauber writes for Newsday ten things to look for in the game tonight, five each for the Jets and Giants. You can read the whole piece here, but here’s our riffs on what Glauber writes about the Jets …
Shonn Greene ‘s running. The Jets’ third-year tailback needs to get going and establish a tone for the season. Ryan keeps referring to Greene as his "bell cow" running back, but Greene hasn’t lived up to that billing as the Jets’ pounding, every-down back. He comes off a foot infection and missed last week’s game. Time for the Ground-and-Pound to start gearing up.
Greene’s had the benefit of two full seasons to address any concerns about how he handles the football, and I think he’s gotten markedly better at catching the football out of the backfield. Greene runs with abandon, and it can cause some injury concerns, but the more we think about it, Glauber’s point has merit. It will be up to Greene to quash any concerns that he can be the primary back for this team, early this season.
Brandon Moore ‘s blocking.The veteran guard makes his preseason debut for the Jets after recovering from offseason hip surgery. The drop-off from Moore to second-year guard Vladimir Ducasse has been huge, and the Jets’ running game no doubt will improve with Moore back. This guy is one of the league’s most underappreciated interior linemen. It also helps that Nick Mangold returns from a neck stinger.
Adding Moore back is going to be a boost to the running game that suffered some to establish itself during his and Mangold’s absences. Ryan keeps telling the public that Ducasse is progressing, but there’s got to be concern with the team’s two best reserves not stationed as reserves (Hunter’s a starter, Turner’s out) heading into the season. The Jets have been remarkably fortunate in the past three years in keeping their starting line uninjured. Now might be when they can least afford an injury to a key lineman.
Mark Sanchez ‘s passing. Sanchez, his teammates and coaches say this will be the year he makes his biggest improvement yet. Still early, but you have to be encouraged by his preseason so far: .667 completion percentage, 115.7 rating, no picks. Big test Monday night against a quality defense.
Granted, the Giants corners are something of a mess at the moment. So just a warning against looking too deeply at what Sanchez does tonight, specifically against the Giants corners. All the same, Sanchez looks to be making great strides this preseason. He’s making better decisions, hitting his targets more accurately, and hasn’t made any “what were you THINKING?” plays as far as I’ve seen. Now of course the offense hasn’t added all the wrinkles we’re so used to seeing during the regular season – it’s been pretty vanilla. Analysts tend to make fun of Sanchez as a short passing QB. But the amusing thing is that even Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger both started their careers as shorter passers who have become something more than that. I still argue that Brady is at his best when he’s getting the ball out of his hand quickly on short throws … so being a “dink and dunker” doesn’t mean you can’t be great.
Calvin Pace ‘s pass rushing. The outside linebacker crushed Manning in last year’s preseason game, knocking the quarterback’s helmet off and opening a gash on his forehead. But that might have been Pace’s most impactful play last year, and the Jets need him to step up in a big way. Yes, he played much of last year on a bad wheel because of a broken bone in his foot, but before that, he hadn’t lived up to the $42-million contract the Jets gave him in 2008. If Pace wants to remove the "soft" label, this is the year to do it.
I think the Jets are going to have to think long and hard about Calvin Pace’s value to the team after this season. To his credit, Pace is a fantastic edge-setter, solid on run and pass plays, and is RELENTLESS in his pursuit of the QB. But he’s not the fastest DE/OLB in the league, so that hinders his ability to get to the QB on most “bang-bang” plays … now if it’s a busted play, coverage sack, or rollouts going away from him, he’s going to provide pressure. He’s a locomotive pass rusher, as opposed to someone like Maybin, who’s more the human missile type. Still having him fully healthy (providing he can stay that way) will only be a help to the Jets defensive front and pass rush specifically. Last year, they had to use him in more utilitarian than playmaking ways.
The Jets’ kicking competition. Nick Folk is trying to hold off Nick Novak , and it could come down to what happens Monday night and Thursday vs. the Eagles. Folk is 3-for-4 on field-goal tries and Novak has made both his attempts. It has been a closer competition than expected.
I don’t have much to add on this one. I guess I assumed that the Jets would pick Folk just since they know what he’s capable of, and the new kickoff rules would seem to favor him … but we’ll just have to see what happens here.