The most intriguing preseason in the history of the Jets gets serious on Friday night with the first preseason game at Detroit. A new general manager and a new “competition” mantra makes this opening game anything but predictable. It also sets up some intriguing position battles on both sides of the ball.
Three things to watch for ...
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1. The running game
With Mike Goodson still MIA and Chris Ivory sidelined for much of training camp with a hamstring injury, the running back position is very much wide open. Bilal Powell played very well in last Saturday’s Green and White scrimmage and he seems to be finding his stride as he enters his third year in the league. After him on the depth chart is John Griffin, an undrafted rookie free agent out of UMass, now entering his second year in the league. He’s unproven but Griffin has quick feet and good hips and his pass-catching ability makes him a tremendous fit for the West Coast offense. In addition, Chad Spann has looked good in training camp and has shown good balance and a willingness to run between the tackles.
2. Will the Sapp run?
The big name on the defensive side throughout the offseason and now training camp has been outside linebacker Ricky Sapp, who appears ready to emerge from his backup role into a starting one. Sapp had first-round caliber talent but battled injuries in college and has struggled to stay healthy in the NFL. Now with a full offseason, he has shown himself to be very active at outside linebacker and is a constant presence in the backfield. Friday night, the rubber meets the road and he can show if he is real. Caution alert: This time last year, the same platitudes were said about Aaron Maybin, who had a tremendous training camp. Maybin was cut by midseason and is now trying to latch on with the Bengals.
3. Oh yes, the quarterbacks
Mark Sanchez gets the nod in Detroit as the starting quarterback but it will be the rookie Geno Smith who should get the majority of snaps after the starters get pulled in the first quarter. This past week, Sanchez has looked the sharper of the two quarterbacks, perhaps a sign he is consolidating his spot atop the depth chart. But there is no denying Smith has made significant progress since the end of minicamp in June and he clearly boasts more upside. Then there is No. 3 quarterback Greg McElroy, who impressed in last Saturday’s scrimmage. A strong showing against the Lions could make things interesting.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.