The third preseason game could sort out the numerous questions to emerge from last Saturday’s win over the Jaguars. Yes, the Jets beat the hapless Jags, but no aspect of the team stood out. Against the Giants (Saturday, 7 p.m., NBC), the Jets will face a much more difficult test.
Most of the issues rest on the defensive side of the ball, as the group allowed Jacksonville three scoring drives in the first half.
Three things to watch for …
1. The Hapless defense
The Jets’ starting defense made Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert— one of the worst quarterbacks in the league statistically— look like a Pro Bowl quarterback last week. Short, quick routes and lots of hot reads frustrated the defense, as did the up-tempo pace of the Jaguars offense. Head coach Rex Ryan lit into his defense afterward, and this week Ryan sounded optimistic that not only would his unit turn around but would be a Top-5 defense in the league this season.
“You put that decal on the side of your helmet, it says ‘New York Jets,’ you have to be special,” Ryan said. “You have to understand that there [are] expectations that come along with it. I expect our guys to play extremely well.”
Last year, the Jets were the No. 8 total defense in the league.
“It’s just about us going out and making sure that we do our jobs and making sure we cut down on mental errors and cut out the self-inflicted wounds,” cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. “For us, we feel like we have a good front seven to get to the quarterback, [we] just [have] to make sure we’re communicating from the safeties to the linebackers and out to the corners.”
2. The Coples retreat
With the versatile Quinton Coples sidelined indefinitely with a right ankle injury, the Jets will slot in Garrett McIntyre and Antwan Barnes at the outside linebacker role. For plays as a defensive lineman, it looks like rookie first-round pick Sheldon Richardson and journeyman Leger Douzable will take on an additional role. But this is a huge opportunity for McIntyre to step up and get additional snaps with the first-team defense. Ryan liked what he saw last week from McIntyre.
“In the game, we had a corner cover a running back and Garrett had to cover the wideout in the slot,” Ryan said. “[He] never flinched, just got the job done, even though that wasn’t an ideal situation for us. Garrett’s just a guy [who’s] smart, knows the defense, we can plug him in a lot of different spots and he does a tremendous job.”
McIntyre has stiff hips but a long wingspan and good instincts.
3. Offensive line shuffle
The Jets signed center Scott Wedige on Wednesday— and then promptly cut him on Friday in order to bring in tackle Jason Smith. Smith, a former first-round pick, was on the team last year and will provide depth at right tackle where Austin Howard has struggled. The offensive line has looked relatively good with Stephen Peterman performing well at left guard the past two games and even getting reps at center this week. But watch for Vlad Ducasse to step up into a larger role as he gets the start against the Giants at left guard as he tries to find a position and earn a spot on this team.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.