Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jets vs. Giants: What We Learned From Preseason Tilt

GIANTS 21 - JETS 20 

We are 15 days away from the start of the 2016 NFL regular season and the annual preseason tilt between the Jets and Giants is supposed to be a pretty good indicator of where both teams are at this point in the summer. If this game was any indication, both teams need a lot of work, especially the Giants.  Let's break it down. 

GIANTS OFFENSE: The Giants offense was non-existent against the Jets. Big Blue couldn't get the football into Jets territory with their starting unit, and by the time Eli Manning and company left in the third quarter, the Giants amassed only 68 yards of offense. Yikes! 

Manning didn't even hit a receiver until the end of the first half when hit connected with Odell Beckham Jr. for eight yards with 5:18 to go before halftime. 

Manning was not good. He was 10-of-15 for 65 yards. He couldn't handle the exotic blitzes of the Jets defense, and looked totally rattled. He even threw a costly interception to Darrelle Revis that set up the Jets first score of the night. 

The Giants' offensive ineptitude has become a story of the preseason. The Giants were shutout by the Buffalo Bills a week ago 21-0, and were totally shutdown by the Jets. Big Blue didn't score until very late in the third quarter with their second and third teams already in the contest. 

VICTOR CRUZ: It was nice to see Cruz back on the field for the first time in nearly two years. Cruz had one catch for four yards. It has been a long road back for the injury prone receiver, and the Giants are hoping that he can reclaim some form of the player he once was. 

RYAN NASSIB: Nassib looked good for the Giants. He threw two touchdowns, including the game winner in the fourth quarter. Keep in mind however this all came against the Jets second string defense, so take this with a grain of salt.

GIANT DEFENSE: If there is one positive for the Giants, it was their defense. They did a great job at stopping the Jets on their first drive with Olivier Vernon and Jonathan Casillias making their presence felt. They even forced a fumble by Ryan Fitzpatrick in a crucial situation with the Jets trying to score in the first quarter from the Giants 15-yard line. 

Meanwhile for the Jets...

JETS OFFENSE WAS INCONSISTENT: There were a lot of good and bad signs from the Jets offense on Saturday. For the most part they moved the ball well against the Giants, but failed to cash in on some key opportunities. Getting the football back at the Giant 15-yard line after a blocked punt was a huge missed opportunity. Fitzpatrick has been hammered for his turnover issues, and fumbling the ball there didn't help. 

On the other hand there were some good moments. Fitzpatrick hit up and coming Jalin Marshall three times for 30 yards, and later connected with Eric Decker on a great back-shoulder throw for a touchdown that gave New York a 7-0 lead. 

The Jets dominated time of possession, and were bullies up front. Early on the Jets offensive line pushed around the Giants, creating running lanes for Matt Forte and company. Forte looked pretty good in his first action as a Jet. He carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards. 

GENO SMITH vs. BRYCE PETTY: Saturday's game didn't resolve anything in the battle over the Jets back-up quarterback job. Smith played only two series and thew five short and safe passes before being removed. Petty had some good throws. He hit Zach Sudfeld for 12 yards and Jeremy Ross for 18 yards. However, with the Jets driving deep into Giants territory, Petty threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage, and the ball was picked off by Kerry Wynn who ran it back 73-yards for a touchdown. In short, it's likely that Smith will be the back-up to Fitzpatrick, with Petty the third stringer. 

CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG: We had a Hackenberg sighting, finally, and it was a mixed bag. The stories that the Jets fear that Hackenberg can't play didn't hold a lot of water by the end of the night. In his first series the rookie had good command of the huddle, and guided a seven-play 75-yard touchdown drive. He zipped passes of 16 to Sudfeld and 26 to Charone Peake. Hackenberg then dropped a dime into the hands of Robby Anderson for the touchdown. 

After that series, Hackenberg looked like a rookie. He threw into double and triple coverage constantly, and was even picked off in a big spot with the Jets stuck in the shadow of their own goal-line. The turnover was the dagger as it led to the Giants winning touchdown. 

MUHAMMAD WILKERSON: Wilkerson looked great in his first start since breaking his leg last January 1. He had four tackles and a quarterback pressure. He was even in on the play on a couple of tackles for a loss. 

JETS DEFENSE LOOKS FAST: The Jets starting defense was fast off the football all night. They pressured Eli Manning, and never allowed the Giants to get into a groove offensively. This team has tremendous speed both up the middle and off the edge. Wilkerson's return certainly provided a spark on Saturday night. For those who think the Bengals will walk into the Meadowlands and light up the scoreboard, you've been warned. The Jets defense will keep New York in that game all afternoon. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Petty Should Be Backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick

It's hard to believe that a month ago at this time the Jets were still in a holding pattern on whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick would even play for them this year.

A dispute of guaranteed money came to an end the day before training camp started when Fitzpatrick agreed to a 1-year, $12 million contract, with all of that money guaranteed. Now three weeks into training camp, and two games in, this much is clear: Geno Smith's days in green and white should be numbered.

One has to only look at the performances of both Smith and current third string quarterback, Bryce Petty to know that Petty has outplayed Smith on the field. In two games, Petty has completed 58 precent of his passes, has thrown for 335 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Against the Redskins last Friday night, Petty threw for 242 yards and two scores, and was the reason the Jets held an 18-14 lead late in the fourth quarter.

Smith? He hasn't been good. In two games Smith has completed only 52 percent of his passes, thrown for 126 yard with one pick and one touchdown. For a guy in his fourth year in the NFL this was an opportunity for Smith to show that he is by far and away the team's best option as its back-up quarterback. Instead he has has been the opposite.

Not to mention Smith has hurt himself with a number of off-field gaffs that showcase his continued immaturity. Shortly after Fitzpatrick agreed to terms on a contract, Smith came out and told the media that he was "pissed off," hinting ever so slightly that he was upset that he wasn't going to be the starting quarterback.

One would think that Smith knew long in advance that the Jets wanted Fitzpatrick to be their starter over him. One would think? Apparently Smith felt otherwise.

Two weeks ago he took to Twitter attacking the media saying, "If they don't have a story these days, they'll make one."

These are not signals a team wants to see from a guy who is supposed to be a competent NFL quarterback. Smith is anything but that right now -- and perhaps his release is the best thing for him -- if the Jets go that route.

Todd Bowles meanwhile remains non-comittal as to whom his back-up will be. Will it be Smith? Will it be Petty? "Right now they're all playing, and we are trying to see who sorts out what," Bowles said this week.

Bowles wouldn't even go as far as to say which quarterback would be the back-up in Friday's Giants-Jets preseason clash.

This is a least a hint that Smith has opened the door for Petty, and, the former Baylor product has taken the invite and knocked the door off its hinges. While Friday's game won't answer much, since the starters will play into the third quarter, the final preseason game in Philadelphia on September 1 will go a long way in determining who gets the back-up slot.

And let's keep in mind there is another card in play here too, and that is Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg has been kept under tight wraps all summer and he may not see the field until the Eagles game, if at all. The Jets look at him as a project, and certainly won't cut a guy they selected in the second round. If anything, Hackenberg might be placed on the Practice Squad. If Hackenberg is not on the Practice Squad, it would signal that either Smith or Petty would be looking for a new team.

If Petty continues to play well in camp and in the remaining pre-season games, there is no question that he should get the job. Smith has had his chance to prove himself several times over and can't seem to get over the hump. While it would make sense for the Jets to keep Geno Smith and his expiring contract because he has the "experience," Petty is likely the best answer to the Jets back-up issues right now.