After a long summer of waiting, football is back! The Jets kicked off the preseason last night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Starters don’t generally get a ton of playing time in the 1st preseason game and this game was no different. However, this game offered a good insight into the depth of the Jets and a chance to look at some of the new rookies. I’ll break it down by going through the good, the bad, and the questionable.
Quincy Enunwa- The former 6th round pick from Nebraska may be on the cusp of a breakout year. Fitzpatrick and the rest of the offensive starters only played two drives last night, but Enunwa was a big part of the second one. Enunwa had 2 receptions for 69 yards and ended the game as the Jets leading receiver. His two big catches led the Jets to the redzone where Bilal Powell, the starting RB for the game, punched it into the endzone. Enunwa has always been big and fast and now with more experience he could make this a big year as a possible 3rd or 4th option on offense.
Special Teams- One huge reason why the Jets didn’t make the playoffs last year was consistently poor special teams play. The Jets’ punting net average was second to last in the league last year, and Ryan Quigley, the former Jets punter, was rated by 538.com as the league’s worst kicker last year among both punters and place kickers. Additionally, green and white were tied for 26th in kick return average yards. Last night’s game showed that these problems could be a thing of the past. Jeremy Ross and Jalin Marshall both had electrifying kick returns of 51 and 84 yards respectively and Lachlan Edwards, the rookie punter, turned in a solid performance. The battle between the UDFA Marshall and career journeyman Ross for primary return responsibilities should be exciting. Marshall got some looks at WR with the 1st team and he has been impressing in camp, but Ross turned in solid performance as a receiver last night. The competition will continue to be close for these two guys.
Rookies- Rookies flashed on offense, defense, and special teams last night. Rookie LBs Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins both turned in solid games. Lee won’t start to begin the season, but look for him on sub packages and on 3rd down. Lee’s 40 time doesn’t lie and he showed his blazing speed getting into the backfield a few times last night. Jenkins is slotted as a starter opposite Lorenzo Mauldin and is the only rookie starter for the Jets this year. The Jets think they got a steal in the 3rd round and I’m inclined to agree. Jenkins adds some youthful speed to the outside, but he is also very fundamentally sound, can set the edge, and is a reliable tackler. The other notable rookie performance came from 7th round WR Charone Peake. Peake had 4 catches for 45 yards and caught every ball thrown his way. After an injury-plagued career at Clemson, Peake is trying to make a splash in the NFL and he made a good case for a roster spot last night. The Jets have outstanding depth at WR this year.
Penalties- The Jets only had two penalties last night, which is excellent. This shows the team is disciplined from top to bottom.
Rontez Miles- The last big positive of the game was Rontez Miles. The backup safety led the game in tackles for both teams and had a key block on Marshall’s long kick return. Miles was around the ball on every play and showed the Jets have excellent depth in the secondary.
Dee Milliner- With the departure of Antonio Cromartie, there’s some room in the secondary for people to step up. Unfortunately, Milliner did the opposite last night. He was beaten badly several times by Allen Robinson and had a missed tackle that sprung a big play for the Jaguars. Milliner must do better if he wants a spot in the CB rotation.
Kicking competition- According to Todd Bowles, there is an “open kicking competition” between incumbent Nick Foles and rookie Ross Martin. With Martin going 1/3 last night, including a bad miss from 39 yards, Folk clearly grabbed the lead.
RB depth- We didn’t get to see much of what the running game is going to look like this year simply because everyone is injured. 4 of the 6 RBs on the Jets roster are currently injured including presumed lead back Matt Forte. Romar Morris had the majority of the carries last night and he is very unlikely to make the final 53. Hopefully Forte, Robinson, Williams, and Pierce get healthy sooner rather than later.
Backup QBs- Inconsistent would be the best adjective for Geno Smith and Bryce Petty last night. Both made some nice throws and both made some very questionable throws. Geno had a perfect strike to Peake for a TD, but also had a few passes into the dirt and one that should’ve been easily picked off. Petty’s arm strength is evident, but he is still inaccurate at times. Neither QB was outright bad, but both have much room for improvement. Meanwhile, 2nd round pick Christian Hackenberg didn’t see the field last night. Todd Bowles must feel that the Penn St. product has a lot of work to do before he sees the field.
Jace Amaro- Jace Amaro didn’t register a catch last night despite 3 targets and he didn’t enter the game until later in the 2nd quarter. At this point, the former 2nd rounder seems to have been replaced by the speedier Enunwa. Early indications are that Amaro may not be that involved in the offense this year.