Jets vs. Panthers: 3 things to watch

Cam Newton.

Preseason game No. 3 is here and with it the Jets are looking to break their 0-2 start and get some momentum heading into the games that matter. They host the always dangerous Cam Newton and the Panthers in what should be a good test on both sides of the ball for the Jets.

Three things to watch for

1. Return to Health

Don’t look now, but the Jets offense is going to look markedly better. The team’s biggest playmaker, Santonio Holmes, is expected to see some snaps after returning to the practice field this week after nursing his sore ribs most of training camp and he adds another dimension to the passing game. In addition, speedster Jeremy Kerley returns from his hamstring injury, meaning that only Chaz Schilens remains a likely scratch among the team’s receivers. Through the first two games of preseason, Jets quarterbacks have completed just 26-of-45 passes for just 140 yards. That number should change dramatically with the addition of Holmes and Kerley.

2. An aggressive defense

The talk this week about the Jets centered on the defense, which is looking like a dominant group. Last year, the unit was No. 6 in the league but toward the end of the season, it looked nothing like a fearsome unit. With the Jets facing a number of no-huddle offenses and multiple sets, an emphasis was placed on speed.

“That’s something that we’re telling our guys. You see them doing more wind sprints and all that,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “They’re not just going through the body of practice, but even on their own, they’ll be working that way.”

The result has been a defense that is playing faster, flying to the ball and able to be more aggressive.


3. Rolling with the starters

The third preseason game is an early Christmas present for football fans. Expect most of the starters to play a half with many going well into the third quarter. If the Jets perform well during this stretch, it could well show the true identity of the team more than the first two preseason games would indicate.

“The third preseason game is obviously the big one. Each game we’ve taken steps forward. Each practice we’ve made some forward steps,” center Nick Mangold said. “Hopefully we put it all together. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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