Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

Jeremy Kerley.

The Jets close out the preseason tonight when they host the Eagles in what could have been the most intriguing match-up of the preseason. Unfortunately, all of the big names will be on the sidelines, which means we won’t see Nnamdi Asomugha go against a Jets team he seemed destined to sign with and Plaxico Burress won’t be playing the Eagles after months of speculation that he was Philadelphia-bound.

Instead, the depth players will be on the field for this final preseason game, meaning that everything is on the line for those hoping to squeeze onto the 53-man roster.

1. Wilkerson Feeling the Love

For Jets first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, Thursday night will be the chance for him to build on his early successes. Wilkerson was an under-the-radar player — despite his stellar numbers at Temple — before impressing at the NFL Combine and becoming the No. 30 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“I think I had a good preseason. I just wanted to come in and just try to work week in and week out and improve from the first game,” Wilkerson said. “I just want to keep doing that this season, move forward and progressing every week.”

Wilkerson, who was penciled in as a starter by head coach Rex Ryan after the first week of camp, had a quiet game against the Giants on Monday night. He registered just two tackles and generated little pass rush before a third-quarter ejection for an altercation with Brandon Jacobs.

“Was it a smart move? No. Do I regret it? No,” Wilkerson said. “It’s football and I am not going to let somebody try to take advantage of me. It’s over with now.”

Thursday night is the chance for Wilkerson to show what stuff he’s made of.

2. More Kerley  

The Jets drafted Jeremy Kerley in the fifth round this past April because the rookie is a pure athlete. In Monday night’s 17-3 win over the Giants, Kerley had a catch for six yards as a wide receiver, had two rushes for 13 yards out of the Wildcat formation and had a 17-yard punt return. In other words, he’s looking like a younger version of Brad Smith, who signed with Buffalo this offseason.

“He has a little bit of that Brad Smith in him. He can throw the football. He’s just a football player,” Ryan said. “He’s not obviously as big as Brad, but the young man did the same thing at TCU and we’re seeing it here as well.”

Kerley should get some more looks at receiver against the Eagles and perhaps in the Wildcat as his ability to be a playmaker continues to grow.

“Every time I step out on the field, there is something new to learn from, as far as learning from my mistakes,” Kerley said. “It’s been fun nonetheless.”

3. McElroy’s Smarts

It hasn’t been a bad start for Greg McElroy, the seventh-round pick who should get the start against the Eagles. The rookie quarterback out of Alabama who scored a 43-out-of-50 on the Wonderlic has had a solid preseason so far. He showed well against the Texans in the first game of the preseason, nearly orchestrating a game-winning touchdown drive. Then, he was more than adequate against the Bengals the next week. On Monday night McElroy looked more comfortable than Mark Sanchez did in the pocket as he went 4-for-5 for 39 yards.

McElroy may never supplant Sanchez as the starter, but he’s showing the goods that make for a starter in this league. And considering that his Wonderlic score is probably equal to the rest of his Crimson Tide classmates who got drafted this spring combined, his intangibles are the stuff of starting NFL quarterbacks as well.

Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for Jets news and features all season long.


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