It was a preseason game and by its very nature, was never going to be very interesting.
The Jets’ 37-13 win over Jaguars on Saturday night did little to shake out the depth chart, meaning there are plenty of question marks ahead of the team’s third preseason game against the Giants next Saturday.
In particular, the Jets are left wondering what to make of their quarterback competition. They got a mixed bag from Mark Sanchez, who started strong then fizzled as the first half wore on. With Geno Smith watching from the sidelines on the Will Not Play list, it was Sanchez who orchestrated a masterful opening drive as he went 3-for-3 for 48 yards including a 23-yard touchdown to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But he went on to throw a red-zone interception on the Jets’ third offensive series and squandered a chance at points late in the first half.
With six seconds left in the first half and just six yards from the end zone, Sanchez rolled out and ate up the remainder of the clock rather than throw the ball out of bounds and bring on the field-goal unit. It was a puzzling choice for a veteran quarterback who should know better.
“That won’t happen again, shouldn’t have happened,” Sanchez said. “I know better than that.”
Not surprisingly, head coach Rex Ryan took the heat for the gaffe at the end of the first half.
“I’ll take the responsibility for that one,” Ryan said. “I knew it’d be tight.”
Sanchez’s play in the second half against the Jaguars second-team defense was an improvement, going 5-for-8 for 87 yards in the quarter. In the end, he didn’t do enough to lose the job, but he didn’t coronate himself the starter either.
What we learned ...
1. Gates opens a door
With Joe McKnight sidelined with an injury, Clyde Gates stepped into the kickoff return role and looked more than capable. On his first two kickoffs, Gates had returns of 44 yards and 37 yards, producing a highlight-reel spin move in the process. However, Gates, who did well in the preseason opener at Detroit with three receptions for 39 yards, failed to register a catch on Saturday night. He was targeted twice against the Jaguars but failed to haul one in.
2. Defense looks horrible
What was supposed to be the team’s strength was instead a liability as the Jaguars’ up-tempo offense ran roughshod over the Jets defense. Linebacker David Harris looked washed up, struggling in coverage and drawing a penalty for a hit out of bounds. Quinton Coples suffered a leg injury and didn’t play much of the second quarter, but when he was on the field was consistently lost in space.
“Our defensive intensity in the first half was not up to New York Jets standards certainly,” Ryan said. “You can tell when the intensity is there, you’re going to tackle, you’re going to run to the ball, you’re going to do all those things that epitomize New York Jets defense. Quite honestly, we struggled with that.”
The second unit did much better as linebackers Garrett McIntyre and Ricky Sapp, who had a sack, both put in solid shifts. Cornerback Darrin Walls also pieced together some good work. Ryan praised the second-team unit as “certainly being ready to play.”
“They did a tremendous job,” Ryan said. “The defensive intensity was outstanding by the second group.”
3. Ground gains
Running back Chris Ivory, finally healthy from a lingering hamstring injury at the start of training camp, made his debut but had only 13 rushing yards on six carries. He did show good burst when the holes opened up and the potential to be a part of the running back rotation. Bilal Powell earned praise from his head coach with seven carries for 68 yards and also did a good job of blocking in the backfield. And it is hard not to like the effort by Kahlil Bell, who carried 11 times for 29 yards and two touchdowns. With Mike Goodson still not in camp and McKnight having a tough time with injuries, the Jets needed positive gains from their backfield and they got just that.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.