Tonight the New York Jets take on the Washington Redskins in their 2nd preseason game. This time around fans should get to see the starters on the field for most of the 1st half, so the Jets performance will be far more meaningful than it was against the Jaguars. While preseason games themselves are meaningless, they do provide insight into some big questions about the team. Here are five things that you should pay attention to during tonight’s game.
1. How does Ben Ijalana play with the starters?
Breno Giacomini is slated to be the Jets starter at right tackle as he has been the past two years, but he still isn’t healthy enough to play. This has lead to Ben Ijalana getting the start at right tackle. It is important to see if he can handle the role of the starter, because it is starting to become a real possibility that Giacomini won’t be back in time for the season opener. Also, there is the fact that Giacomini’s play the past two seasons has left much to be desired. If Ijalana can use this opportunity to play with the starting line to prove that he is capable of doing a better job than Giacomini, it would allow the Jets to improve arguably the weakest link on their starting line. Ijalana taking over the starting spot would give the front office the option of cutting Giacomini to clear up a decent sized chunk of cap space. Mike Maccagnan would then have to bring in a veteran tackle to back Ijalana up, but it is likely he would be able to find a cheaper option than Giacomini.
2. Does Darron Lee do a better job of shedding blockers?
When the Jets drafted Darron Lee, one of the biggest concerns was that he wouldn’t be able to shed the blocks of the bigger offensive lineman he will be facing in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, Lee struggled at times and got lost among the Jacksonville offensive linemen. If he is able to do a better job of getting free from blocks this week, it will be evidence that he is continuing to get better each week, and help instill confidence that he will develop into the cornerstone linebacker that the Jets drafted him to be. Lee has already flashed his big play potential with a sack and a couple tackles for a loss against Jacksonville, so now he just needs to prove that he can shed blockers as well.
3. Who plays the majority of time on the outside across from Revis?
With Antonio Cromartie no longer on the Jets this season, there is currently a battle going on between Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams for who is going to get the starting cornerback spot across from Darrelle Revis. After sitting out the preseason opener against the Jaguars, Revis will be playing tonight, so if either Skrine or Williams gets the majority of snaps on the outside while he is on the field, it will indicate which player the coaches are leaning towards. When Cromartie was injured last season, it was Williams who started in his place, so it would make sense to keep Skrine in the nickleback role that he excels in. However, if Skrine proves that he is the better player, then he will be the guy that Todd Bowles and his coaching staff trot out when the Jets are playing their base defense.
4. Who wins this matchup in the battle to be the returner?
The Jets currently have a two-man battle going on between Jeremy Ross and Jalin Marshall for who will win a spot on their roster as the return man. Both players had excellent returns on kick offs last week against the Jaguars. With his one kickoff return, Ross brought the ball out of the end zone and returned it for 51-yards. Marshall also brought his return out of the end zone and one-upped Ross by returning it 84-yards. Marshall’s return set up the Jets second touchdown of the game, which proved to be the decisive score. The Jets have struggled greatly to find a productive returner the past few seasons, so if one of these players can prove that they can consistently make big plays in the return game, it would be a huge benefit for the Jets offense in 2016.
5. Who plays the best at outside linebacker?
The Jets have made an effort the past few seasons to get younger and faster at outside linebacker, and have been able to do just that. Lorenzo Mauldin proved his ability to rush the passer in 2015 and is now trying to make the switch to being a full time linebacker. Jordan Jenkins was drafted in the third round out of Georgia this year and is trying to prove that he can be the sturdy edge setting OLB that the Jets need to replace Calvin Pace. Mauldin and Jenkins are currently the odds on favorites to win the starting jobs, but they aren’t the only players in the running. There is also Freddie Bishop who signed with the Jets after playing at an elite level in the CFL. Trevor Reilly is in his third season with the Jets, and is trying to prove that he can contribute in more ways then on special teams. If Bishop or Reilly are able to make some big plays tonight, they could put some pressure on Mauldin and Jenkins for the starting jobs.