Football is almost here, can you smell it?
The Jets are a couple of days away from facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener, at MetLife Stadium.
Head coach Todd Bowles and his staff are heavy into the evaluation process of their roster. It’s been a spirited training camp so far for the Jets, now they’ll finally get a chance to line up against another uniform.
Here are three storylines to keep an eye on, for the Jets, in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.
Everyone, of course, will be curious to see how Ryan Fitzpatrick looks. However, it would be safe to presume that Bowles won’t play his starting quarterback too much in a preseason opener; Fitzpatrick will likely play a series or two before calling it a night.
When Fitzpatrick heads to the sidelines, Geno Smith will most likely be the next man up. Bowles, when asked if he’s been impressed with Smith’s camp so far, didn’t reveal much either way.
“I wouldn’t call it impressed with anybody,” Bowles said. “I think he has made some progress and some strides, but we’ll see on Thursday and in the next couple of games, but he’s doing good.”
Second-year quarterback Bryce Petty and possibly rookie Christian Hackenberg could both see time in the second half.
Who’s Returning Punts?
Jalin Marshall, an undrafted free agent rookie wide receiver out of Ohio State, could be playing himself into a role as the Jets punt returner this season. There does seem to be an opening at punt returner, last year’s return man Jeremy Kerely is no longer on team.
Bowles could be looking at a handful of options, beginning with Marshall and Jeremy Ross. How many different players will get a chance to return punts against Jacksonville remains to be seen.
“Depends on how many times we can make them punt,” said Bowles, perhaps alluding to how well his defense performs. “If it’s two or three, we might get two of them in there. If we get five or six in, we might see three or four guys depending on who finishes the game.”
On if the first two punt returners will be Ross and Marshall, Bowles confirmed that will be the plan.
“Starting out, yes.” said Bowles.
The Running Backs
Matt Forte has yet to practice because of a hamstring which the Jets are wisely taking every precaution with. Forte, signed as a free agent in the offseason from the Chicago Bears, is projected to play a key role in the offense this season.
While Forte remains sidelined, the focus in training camp has shifted a bit towards Bilal Powell. The 2011 fourth-round pick of the Jets has looked even more explosive and quicker in camp, something which has not gone unnoticed by Bowles.
“He’s been healthy, he’s been quick,” said Bowles on the progress of Powell in camp so far. “He looks a lot quicker than he did last year. He’s always smart, he’s always talking, he’s steady. What you see is what you get all the time from him. I’m happy about that.”
Powell is getting a high number of reps while Forte’s been out. Bowles, however, isn’t concerned … yet.
“Not at this time, said Bowles. “He hasn’t been banged around a lot, so he’s getting the same amount of reps they will be getting.”
Romar Morris and Dominique Williams could also see playing time in the banged-up Jets backfield. Bernard Pierce, like Forte, is also dealing with a hamstring injury which will most likely sideline him against the Jaguars.
It should also be noted that running back Khiry Robinson recently participated in positional drills, it marked the first time he was on the field as a participant of practice since he was signed by the Jets in the offseason as a free agent.
Robinson was activated from the active/physically-unable-to-perform list, he sat out the start of training camp while rehabilitating from a broken right leg.
Robinson’s availability for the Jacksonville game is up in the air, according to Bowles.
“We’re going to take a look at him and see how he’s feeling, if he has any after-day soreness, and we’ll make a game-time decision.”
Below The Radar
Tight End Jace Amaro, according to reports, has quietly put together an impressive training camp. Amaro has shown flashes of the pass-catching threat the Jets were hoping they drafted in the second round of the 2014 class. Injuries and inconsistent production has placed a question mark on Amaro’s future with the Jets, he could help himself a long way with a strong preseason.