Expect the Jets to go into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Giants wanting to make a point. After a disappointing 8-8 season where they missed the playoffs, the Jets want to show their crosstown rivals and the Super Bowl champions they aren’t the same team from last season.
Three things to watch
1. Ground & Not So Sound
When the Jets hired former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as their offensive coordinator, the move signaled a return to the Jets’ run-first approach that did so well in 2009 and 2010. Last year under former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets went away from the ground and pound in favor of a more pass-heavy approach. It failed. But in last Saturday’s preseason opening loss to the Bengals, the ground game was still limp. There was good news as backup quarterback Tim Tebow was the leading rusher with 34 yards on four carries -- none of which came out of the Wildcat -- but starter Shonn Greene generated just 11 yards on five carries. Of all the backs, Joe McKnight stood out with seven carries for 32 yards.
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“In the game, he made some nice runs. He’s always had a great deal of talent,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “The kind of speed that he has, very few people in the league have that kind of speed.”
McKnight put on weight this offseason to carry more of a workload in 2012 and a strong showing against the Giants could see McKnight make a statement to be the Jets’ feature back.
2. Protection Issues
A major Achilles’ heel of the Jets a season ago was a porous offensive line, somewhat ironic considering that the team had three selections from the unit in the Pro Bowl. Improvement was supposed to come this year, but judging from the Bengals’ five sacks last Friday it hasn’t arrived yet.
Sparano brought in Dave DeGuglielmo this offseason to be offensive line coach and there is certainly fire in the belly of a man the players simply call Gugs. DeGuglielmo is a perfectionist so his unit should show improvement Saturday night, but will it be good enough?
“I just want to see them work as a unit. I want to see them move people off the football, and I want to see them pass protect. That’s all the things we ask for from them,” DeGuglielmo said. “We’re not in heavy game planning right now, but it’s individual competition out there in terms of us against a great defensive line and defensive unit. Now we have to go out and perform as a unit and be in sync.”
3. Grudge Match
Week 16 against the Giants was a turning points for the Jets last year. They entered the game 8-6 and seemed destined for a third straight season of earning a wild-card berth. But despite dominating most offensive categories, three turnovers doomed the Jets and breakdowns on defense gave up big plays in a 29-14 loss. The Giants used the energy from that game to propel them to the Super Bowl. Saturday night can be a measuring stick against one of the most successful teams in the league the past few years.
“I do think there’s a level of respect there too, just in terms of some of the things we’ve done in the past couple years. Obviously they’re Super Bowl champions,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “I like playing them; I think it helps us prepare for the season.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for news throughout the preseason.