It is just a preseason game, but for head coach Rex Ryan’s team Friday’s meeting with the Giants represents a chance at something that hasn’t happened often with him as their head coach: A winning preseason record.
The Jets are 2-0 in preseason for the first time under Ryan and despite the relative success they’ve had with him as head coach, they’ve often struggled in preseason. The Jets’ best preseason under Ryan came last year when they lost their first game but swept the rest of the exhibition slate to finish 3-1. In 2012, they lost all four of their preseason games en route to a 6-10 record.
A win on Friday over the Giants would not only ensure them of just their second winning preseason under Ryan but also build some momentum with the regular season closing in shortly.
Last year, the Jets were a surprising 8-8 after many early preseason polls had them winning just a handful of games. Now with a bevy of draft picks and some nice additions via free agency, especially on offense, the expectations are higher this go around.
Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday (7:30 p.m., CBS2).
1. Starters get good run
In the first two preseason games, the starters got limited snaps but that all changes Friday. The starters will play the entirety of the first half and into the second half. The goal from the coaching staff is to try to replicate what the starters will see and experience on Week 1 of the regular season.
“Generally, what you like to do, what I like to do, is have the starters go through the first half of this game and then one series into the second half,” Ryan said. “I know that’s crazy, but it kind of gets you used to coming back in, getting a little rest time at half time, and then coming back out and you have to play. That’s always what I’ve done in the past.”
Geno Smith, who appears to have a stranglehold on the quarterback competition, will start with Michael Vick getting the bulk of the drives in the second half.
2. Still talking secondary
There is still plenty of sorting out to do for a banged-up secondary unit that looked like a strength of the team just two weeks ago. Dee Milliner is unlikely to play this game with his high ankle sprain, which means the Antonio Allen experiment will continue. The former college linebacker who moved to safety as an NFL rookie and cornerback last week is a work in progress. There is good news however as first-round pick Calvin Pryor excelled last week in the win over the Bengals and looked every bit the part of an impact player in the Jets’ secondary.
“He’s a hitter, he has good range and he makes plays,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “If you look at Rex’s defenses over the years, he has always had that safety that can do that for him, so I think a perfect fit.”
If Allen can be solid, this unit should be able to bounce back. Also, Ellis Lankster looked very solid against the Bengals and has had a very good training camp.
3. The rivalry
This one means an extra little bit for the Jets, even if it is just a preseason game. Playing against their crosstown rival gets this team up. The Giants are the team with a storied history, a full trophy case and the larger fan base. Come football season, this is a Giants town and the players on the other sideline know that.
So while they battle for the Snoopy trophy, presented to the winner by the good people at MetLife, this game means something and the players will respond in kind. It should be a hard-hitting, feisty affair. In other words, it is the only preseason game worth tuning in to watch.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.