The last time we watched the Jets play a football game they were one win away from the Super Bowl, but they came out inexplicably flat and never made it back. Now winding up preseason week one, the Jets square off against the Texans. Everyone knows what the preseason is in the NFL. Basically teams play their starters just long enough for them to shake off the offseason rust, praying all the while that no key players get hurt. Then the second and third stringers take over for most of the game fighting for the last few roster spots. Taking everything with an obligatory preseason grain of salt, here are a few rapid reaction observations about the game.
Not crying over Nnamdi: Throughout the lockout, it seemed as if the Texans were the favorite to land the All Pro free agent. Then, once free agency started it seemed like the uber aggressive Mike Tannenbaum was going to somehow have the two best corners on the league on the same team. As it turned out, the Eagles flew under the radar and nabbed Nnamdi.
The Texans, who have been awful in the secondary basically forever, turned around and signed the second best free agent CB, Jonathan Joseph, and safety Danieal Manning. The Jets opted to resign Antonio Cromartie.
While it remains to be seen how the Texans new additions will work out, the Jets will ultimately be happy they brought back Cromartie. After a year of getting used to the Jets culture and schemes, Cromartie is going to be the best number two corner in the league. Especially being paired with Revis, Cromartie should feed off his professionalism and intensity. He gambles a lot, but he also makes plays.
As if there weren’t already enough commercials, there were three commercial breaks due to injuries in the first quarter alone. Bart Scott and Robert Turner went down for the Jets and former Jet and Giant Derrick Ward went down for the Texans. Scott’s injury did not look serious at all, no word yet on Ward and Turner. Injuries are going to be a bigger factor than ever this preseason because the length of training camp was truncated due to the lockout.
No Plax, No ‘Dre: Not that it is any surprise that nicked up star receivers are sitting out the first preseason game, but it is worth noting that these two towering pass catchers were both absent. Jets fans are chomping at the bit to see what they’re going to have in Burress after being away from football for two years, but they’ll have to wait another week or two. The Texans know what they have in Andre Johnson; when he’s on the field he is one of the three best receivers in the game.
A giant work in progress: Along with the return of a gargantuan who was on IR through 2010, the Jets retooled their defensive line this year in the draft. In the first round they took Muhammad Wilkerson (6’4, 315 lbs) out of Temple who was productive playing DE in a 3-4 front all through college. In the second round they took Kenrick Ellis out of Hampton. At 6’5 and 330 lbs, Ellis looks like he might have accidentally eaten Casey Hampton. Lastly, the Jets are hoping for production out of Ropati Pitoitua, the third year DE out of Washington State. Jets fans might remember seeing the 6’8, 315 lb Pitoitua on Hard Knocks last year. He showed some promise early in camp, but ultimately suffered a season ending injury in the preseason. These three are probably going to see serious playing time this season, and there will likely be some growing pains (believe it or not, these giants might still be able to grow!). Hopefully, Rex and Co. can whip them into shape in a hurry. At the very least it is always compelling to watch such huge physical specimens play the game.
Heir apparent: Okay so maybe Brad Smith wasn’t a king, but it appears rookie WR Jeremy Kerley will get the first chance at being his replacement in the return game. Kerley averaged 27.7 yards on kickoff returns last year at TCU. He can do a little bit of everything Iike Smith, and he will likely fill the role of “Swiss Army Knife.” Smith often looked like the best player on the field last year, his will be big shoes to fill.
When opportunity knocks: After Bart Scott got injured on the first play of the game, Josh Mauga came in to replace him and promptly recorded a tackle for a loss and a sack to end the Texans first drive. He was unblocked on the sack. Mauga found himself in the right place at the right time again in the second half when Kenrick Ellis tipped a pass that floated right into Mauga’s hands for an interception. Though these were not exactly extrodinary individual efforts by Mauga, there is something to be said for a defensive player who continually is in the right place at the right time. Which brings me to…
Eric Smith: This guy doesn’t even get a clever title for his section. Smith took about two seconds to show what type of player he is. First, he put a big hit on Derrick Ward which sent Ward to the locker room. A few plays later, Smith got totally beat by Owen Daniels who ultimately did not catch the pass. Smith is definitely an enforcer on the field, but with Revis and Cromartie playing lockdown coverage on the outside, Smith is far too prone to getting burned. He is the biggest liability on the Jets defense. Whenever there is a big play by the opposing offense, you’ll usually find Smith coming up just short of defending the pass. Like Cromartie, he gambles often, but he does not have the speed or jumping ability to make up for his mistakes like Cromartie does. Smith needs to be much better in coverage this season or he could be the Achilles Heel on an otherwise great defense.
This is turning into a novel. I could keep writing until the regular season starts, but I’ll save some for next week. One closing thought: The Jets receivers definitely know how to run slants.
If you want to know who won the game, look somewhere else because it really doesn’t matter to me. Please leave me comments with your thoughts about the game, I’d love to discuss it further!
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.