By Peter Schwartz
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This is what we have waited for.
It was something that we thought might not happen because of the lockout.
Are you ready for some… PRESEASON FOOTBALL?
As a matter of fact, I am!
There’s no question that preseason football can be awful. Depending on what week it is, starters can play anywhere from a handful of players to two and a half quarters.
Sometimes, they might not play at all and that can be for a variety of reason.
When the Jets kick off their 2011 exhibition slate against the Texans in Houston tonight, I can’t promise that you’ll be on the edge of your seat from kickoff to the final gun. In fact, I know you won’t.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t storylines to follow.
As you all know by now, WR Plaxico Burress will not play because of his injured ankle. It’s a smart move by the Jets. There’s no reason to take any chances and it sounds like he’ll be 100 percent by Wednesday’s practice and he should be good to go for Sunday’s home preseason game against the Bengals.
The Burress saga aside, here are five things for Jets fans to focus on tonight while chowing down on that first round of appetizers.
That’s important too! It’s also preseason for tailgate parties and household viewing get-togethers!
1. The Youthful Defensive Line
First round pick Muhammad Wilkerson and third round pick Kenrick Ellis have been very impressive in training camp so far.
Wilkerson has already been named a starter and has shown a lot of speed and power during workouts at Florham Park. It will be interesting to see him against another team and how he adapts to the NFL speed.
Ellis will likely see plenty of time in the second half. He definitely has raw ability but needs to work on fundamentals.
2. Ropati Returns
Last year, defensive end Ropati Pitoitua had a real chance to be a part of the Jets’ rotation on the defensive line. But in the second preseason game against the Panthers, he suffered a season ending Achilles tendon injury.
After working hard to rehab the injury, he is back and has enjoyed a good camp so far. Head Coach Rex Ryan has been impressed with Pitoitua and his 6’8” 315 pound frame.
3. Can Kerley Cut It?
When the Jets lost WR/KR Brad Smith to the Bills, panic set in among the Gang Green faithful. But the Jets prepared for the possibility of losing Smith back in April when they selected TCU WR/KR Jeremy Kerley in the 5th round of the NFL Draft.
So far in camp, he has been terrific and even showed what kind of a team player that he is giving up No. 85 when the team signed veteran WR Derrick Mason. Ryan said the other day that No. 11 has been the best kick returner in camp so far so look for him to see plenty of action tonight.
4. Weathering The Storm
The Jets have an open competition at punter with the defection of Steve Weatherford to the Giants. Chris Bryan and TJ Conley are battling for the job but perhaps Bryan is the more intriguing candidate.
Bryan is a former Australian Rules football player just like former Jets punter Ben Graham. He punted a bit for the Bucs and Packers last season. He is a left footed punter and Ryan has made note of the fact that he can get the ball off very quickly taking less steps than a traditional punter.
5. Looking for Moore On Offense
The Jets red zone issues were well documented last season, particularly after that failed goal line situation in the AFC Title game against the Steelers. The Jets addressed that issue during the offseason with the signing of Burress but we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.
The Jets also brought in some help in the way of coaching with the hiring of former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore as an offensive consultant.
Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer says he was on board with the idea from the start so it sounds like it will be a nice situation for the Jets.
The offensive has struggled at times during camp so it will be interesting to see how the starters do during their brief appearance in the first quarter. It won’t be a true indication since Burress and guard Brandon Moore will not play. Center Nick Mangold won’t suit up as well because of the stinger he suffered in practice on Thursday.
Rex Ryan had already named Mark Sanchez a captain before the start of training camp but on Saturday, Ryan named 4 more.
Darrelle Revis, Sione Pouha, Eric Smith and Santonio Holmes were all tabbed by Ryan to wear the “C” on the jerseys.
“He took me by surprise,” admitted Holmes.. “ I definitely thank him, the rest of my teammates, even the coaching staff for voting and allowing me to be captain for the Jets this year.”
Pouha and Revis will represent the defense. Pouha feels privileged to be named a captain.
“It feels good,” said the Jets outstanding nose tackle. “Rex called me in and it’s basically an honor to know that he thinks about you like that and the front office thinks of you like that, the coaches think of you like that. You just go about your daily duty and do what you have to do and I guess I stuck out somehow.”
Smith was named the lone special teams captain. He said the entire collection of captains is one of quality.
“It’s definitely a good group to be a part of,” said Smith. “We have a lot of guys that do a lot of things to help this team win games. I think a lot is going to ride on these guys to lead and get the other guys going.”
While Sanchez, Revis, Smith, Pouha, and Holmes will serve as captains, Ryan is going to stick with another ritual that rewards players for hard work and leadership.
“We’ll still do what we do,” said Ryan. “We’ll bring different guys in each week (as representatives for the coin toss), but those guys will be our permanent captains.
Holmes is the only player named captain who was not drafted by the Jets but clearly displayed his leadership abilities last season in his first year with Gang Green.
A CHANGE IN PLANS
The Jets have announced that this Wednesday’s practice, which was originally open to the public, is now closed. The next practice open to the public will be held on Thursday, August 18, at 2:15 pm.
Unless there is a setback, Burress is supposed to fully participate in practice for the first time on Wednesday. Perhaps that was a reason for the Jets closing practice to the public.
But I’ll be there to let you know how he looks — if he practices!
That’s all for now, enjoy tonight’s game!
Jets fans, what will you be looking for against the Texans? Sound off in the comments below…