What to Watch For in Tonight’s Jets vs. Panthers Preseason Game
By Alan Schechter
Aug. 18, 2011; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) calls the play in the huddle against the New York Giants during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Tonight, Mark Sanchez and the rest of the New York Jets take the national stage on Sunday night football to take on the Carolina Panthers. The starters are scheduled to play into the second half before the backups take over, so this third game really does serve as the final dress rehearsal for the regular season. Here are some things we will be watching for:
GROUND AND POUND? HOW ABOUT A TOUCHDOWN?
Not that this isn’t obvious to anyone that has watched the Jets so far, but it is the number one item tonight. Can the Ground and Pound get off and running? They averaged 2.7 yards per rush against the Giants last week. That just isn’t going to fly.
It starts with the offensive line. They have their new starting right tackle, Austin Howard. This line used to be a strength of the team, and now it is a liability. When the line did open up some holes last week, Shonn Greene had a little pep in his step, with a few good runs. Same for Bilal Powell. It just wasn’t consistent though. The line has to get off the snap, start driving guys backward, and opening up some holes for this running game to get going.
The Jets also haven’t made a visit to that painted area of the field known as the endzone since last season. They are the only team in the league not to have scored a touchdown so far in the preseason. It’s been bad, we can just leave it at that.
If this is going to change, it is going to start up front. The line has to improve tonight, and get the running game going. I say it over and over again, but when the offensive line goes, the rest of the team goes. Conversely, when the offensive line plays well, everything else looks better.
Getting the running game going will get the ball moving downfield, toward that so far forbidden area known as the endzone, which will lead into the next point we’ll be watching.
CAN THE JETS GET THE BALL DOWNFIELD?
4.7. That’s the number of yards per pass that Mark Sanchez has amassed so far in the preseason. Tony Sparano has emphasized the fact that a vertical passing game is essential to his offense. 4.7 yards per pass is clear evidence that it just isn’t happening, at least not yet. That has to change.
Again, this will improve with the offensive line play. As we have talked about before, the quarterback needs 3-4 seconds to allow a downfield pass to develop. If you are under siege every time you drop back, there will be no other options besides dump off passes. Mark needs time to get his guys involved. Dustin Keller needs to get involved. He needs to get Stephen Hill and the guys on the outside involved. The protection will help.
Guys getting healthy from injury will help as well. Jeremy Kerley is going to be a game time decision, and signs are good that Santonio Holmes will get on the field tonight as well, which will be huge for the Jets offense. For the offense to take flight, they need time working together as a group. Injuries are unfortunate, and have taken away that time. Getting Holmes and Mark Sanchez back together on the same field will only be a positive for the Jets. With more weapons, he will have an easier time getting the ball downfield.
We have a new starting right tackle, Austin Howard. Coach Ryan has not committed to this guy as the week one starter, but agreed that Austin has “earned his chance” to play with the first team. It will be interesting to watch and see if he earns the starting spot tonight.
Aug 17, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) hands the ball to a fan after throwing a touchdown pass against the Miami Dolphins at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
CAN THE DEFENSE CONTAIN CAM NEWTON?
The mantra for the Jets defense is “one step faster”. So far that has served to be the case, especially against the run. Tonight, the Jets defense will face a big test in the Panthers second year QB, Cam Newton.
Cam Newton is a dangerous football player if he breaks contain, or in layman’s terms, gets outside the pocket. In his rookie season of 2011, he rushed for over 700 yards and 14 TDs. Clearly, he is a weapon with his legs. It will be a big test for this Jets starting defense to hold their assignments, keep Cam in the pocket, and make the tackles when he tries to break contain.
There are some of things we will be watching for tonight. Enjoy the game. Hopefully we all can.