By Peter Schwartz
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After two weeks of practices, meetings, fisticuffs and a reported team trip to the movies, the Jets finally get to interact with another team tonight as they face the Bengals in the preseason opener in Cincinnati.
“I’m excited to see how we play against Cincinnati,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “That’s going to be a great test. Cincinnati is a playoff team with a lot of young talent and Marvin (Lewis) does a great job over there, so I think that’s going to be a good test for us.”
It’s been an explosive camp so far filled with drama, injuries and plenty of storylines. Now the Jets are ready to suit up against players that are not wearing green and white.
“I am glad we are playing somebody else,” said Ryan. “It will be good. It’s that time of the year.”
Ryan was not happy about Monday’s brawl and he stopped practice after a couple of altercations on Tuesday. Ryan was so angry that he made his players run gassers.
Did everyone get the message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated?
“Yeah, definitely,” said Dustin Keller who was one of the players involved in Tuesday’s dust-ups. “You never want to be out there getting into it with your teammates. You know it’s a physical game and those things are going to happen, but you have to take care of your teammates.”
Ryan brought his team up to Cortland to build team chemistry after losing the pulse of the team last year.
The healing process started with the offseason workouts and continued through mini-camp and the first two weeks of training camp.
Tonight, the Jets step onto a field against an opponent for the first time since the meltdown in Miami. Ryan is begging for the right answer to an important question: Can’t we all just get along?
“Here we have a new offensive scheme and a coaching staff that’s trying to do the same thing we did three years ago when we tried to put in a defense,” said Ryan. “So sometimes (the fighting) is habit. You want to finish and be that guy that gets the last shove. Sometimes that leads to (fighting). We just have to understand this is who we are, we’re going to be physical, but we still have to take care of each other.”
The Jets have had their share of injuries during camp, especially at the wide receiver position. Gang Green won’t have the services of Santonio Holmes (rib) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) so that could make things a bit difficult for Mark Sanchez during his brief appearance in Friday night’s game.
“Either way, we’ll have a couple series or whatever it is,” said Sanchez. “As long as Coach Sparano needs us in there, and we’ll move on from there.”
With the Jets’ top two receivers out, there’s an opportunity for others to make an impression in Cincinnati. Second-round pick Stephen Hill has impressed so far in camp and he should see plenty of playing time against the Bengals.
Hill was involved in one of the incidents on Tuesday and is looking forward to playing in a “real” game.
“Yes, we’re ready to go,” said Hill. “I guess you can say we’re kind of tired of playing each other but we’re still competing.”
Hill could be a big contributor for the Jets. He developed excellent blocking skills playing in the triple-option at Georgia Tech but he is also capable of the big play.
“He’s doing a good job stretching the field,” said Sanchez. “He’s fast, long and can really stride. He obviously helps your passing game down the field.”
Hill could be on the receiving end of passes from both Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The Jets backup quarterback has struggled with his passing during practices, but is looking for game action to get his left arm back on track.
“Well yeah, you would love to be known as a good practice player,” said Tebow. “I feel like hopefully I’m better when the lights are on, and it’s for real, and there’s pressure. Plus its real football, you’re out there getting hit. I feel like every day I’ve gotten better.”
The starters are expected to play about a quarter, so Tebow will be under center once Sanchez is deemed done for the night. However, Tebow is also the punt protector on special teams and is expected to see action in that role on Friday.
What does he expect?
“I don’t know, I’ve never done it before,” said Tebow. “It will be fun. We’ll figure out what they’re doing and hopefully have something good ready for them.”
On the defensive side of the ball, safety LaRon Landry continues to make strides as he battles back from an Achilles injury. Landry was one of a handful of free agent signings that the Jets made during the off-season.
After seeing action in the Green/White scrimmage, Landry could see some action against the Bengals.
“I do expect him to play,” said Ryan. “We’re going to keep a close eye on what he does. We want to get him there on opening day. He’s an impact guy, there’s no question about that. This guy will bring an impact with him.”
The Jets have a mix of old faces and new. They have a new offensive coordinator in Sparano. The Jets have a chip on their shoulder after the way things ended last season.
Gang Green has their share of detractors. Even though it’s a preseason game, tonight the Jets can begin to show that this year will be different.
That is, if they can all get along.
BELIEVE IN BILAL
Jets second-year running back Bilal Powell has had an impressive training camp so far. Right now, he’s listed as No. 3 on the depth chart behind Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight, but that could change if he continues to play well.
This week, I caught up with Powell after practice….
Powell could very well develop into a change of pace back for the Jets on third down.
This will be the ninth preseason meeting between the Jets and Bengals. The Jets lead the preseason series 5-3.
Kickoff tonight is at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS-2 with Ian Eagle handling the play by play.
The Jets have claimed RB Jeremy Stewart off waivers from the Eagles and waived RB John Griffin.
After tonight’s game, the Jets return to SUNY Cortland. They’re of on Saturday before resuming training camp practices on Sunday.
The Jets will host the Giants next Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.
That’s all for now! Enjoy the game. Check back soon for more.
What’s your prediction for Jets-Bengals? Be heard in the comments below!