By Peter Schwartz
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Welcome to “Backup Bowl 2012,” a matchup between an unreasonable facsimile of the New York Jets and an expected unreasonable facsimile of the Philadelphia Eagles.
These two teams have made a habit of closing out the preseason without their starters. There will be players on each side fighting for those precious final few spots on the 53-man roster. Others will be looking to perhaps impress other teams, should they get cut. And there are some that are hoping to catch on with a practice squad.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan plans on resting most of his starters, looking ahead to the September 9 regular season opener against the Bills.
“There will be some starters playing in this game,” said Ryan. “For the majority of them, yes that is my plan.”
While you won’t see the likes of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or Darrelle Revis on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, there are some things to look for in the preseason finale.
First-round pick Quinton Coples is expected to see plenty of playing time. He has had an interesting preseason. Coples’ performance in practice over the summer was a little underwhelming but he has been impressive in games.
For however long he’s in there against the Eagles, you want to see him keep his game face on. Ryan was a little upset that Coples had a woe-is-me type of attitude when he had to play the whole game against Carolina.
“I just saw him give that puppy dog look,” said Ryan. “The puppy dog barks a lot (too). He has some bite to him. He has had three sacks. Every game he has had a sack. The guy is a tremendous player, tremendous athlete, he just has to understand that he is a rookie and he is going to play. He is going to play against (Philadelphia) and that is just the way it is. One thing as a rookie, you can’t buy experience. We have this opportunity, let’s get him some playing time and that is what we are going to do.”
Coples was winded in the second half against the Panthers and will need to increase his stamina if he’s going to be an impact player in the NFL.
While the kicking competition is over for the moment, Nick Folk can’t risk any misses on Thursday night. The Panthers released Olindo Mare, who was a favorite of Mike Westhoff from their time together in Miami. You just get the feeling that Westy has been putting some thoughts in Ryan’s ear about this. It’s worth keeping an eye on unless another team grabs him first.
Also pay close attention to third-round pick linebacker Demario Davis. With David Harris on the mend from an ankle injury, you never know when the depth of the Jets will be tested. Davis has been impressive in camp and, at times, in the preseason games. He will play immediately this season on special teams, but it might not be long before he contributes on defense. The Jets like his motor and his leadership abilities.
Second-year quarterback Greg McElroy is going to play most of the game with Matt Simms finishing up. For McElroy, it’s an opportunity to show that he can serve the Jets well as a backup. He had a very good camp last summer until he injured his thumb in a preseason game and was lost for the season.
Meanwhile, Simms, the son of CBS NFL analyst and former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, will have the opportunity to earn a practice squad spot with the Jets or perhaps a look with another team. Simms showed a strong arm in training camp and it will be intriguing to see him get a couple of series.
Mark Sanchez will be paying close attention to the understudies. Even though he’s not playing, Sanchez plans on being involved on the sideline.
“Making sure the quarterbacks are in and out of the huddle, getting up to the line, making good checks,” said Sanchez. “(I will) try to see things like they see things for me – corners position, safety rotation, little things. (I will) see if I get any tips from any defensive backs or anything, talk through some of their reads on the sidelines after their plays, and ask the quarterback what they saw. The same stuff they do with me in reverse and they do a great job, so it’s my job to stay attentive and be in the game.”
Under former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets gave Sanchez the opportunity to put on the headset and call plays for one series in the final preseason games.
Can we expect it again?
“I honestly haven’t even asked,” said Sanchez. “I have no idea.”
We’ll have to see if new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is willing to keep the tradition alive.
This will be the 34th preseason meeting between the Jets and Eagles. The Jets lead the all-time preseason series 21-12. Last summer, the Eagles beat the Jets 24-14 at MetLife Stadium.
In the regular season, the Jets are 0-9 all-time against the Eagles.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Each week, I’m going to try and feature somebody on the opposing team that has an interesting story, or perhaps a connection to New York football.
This week, I’d like to tell you about Eagles offensive quality control coach Matt Nagy. The former Arena Football League quarterback is now in his second season as an official member of the Eagles coaching staff after spending 2009 and 2010 as a coaching intern for Philly during training camp.
I got to know Matt when he played for the AFL’s New York Dragons. Nagy went on to guide the Georgia Force and the Columbus Destroyers to ArenaBowl berths. Before, during, and after his playing career, he coached high school football.
Matt was a very smart player and I always felt that he would make a great coach someday. Andy Reid is very lucky to have him on his staff. It’s not unprecedented for someone with an Arena League background to make it big in the NFL. There was, of course, Kurt Warner who went from stocking shelves to AFL quarterback to NFL MVP. And legendary Arena League player and coach Jay Gruden is now the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Good luck Matt!
Newly acquired tackle Jason Smith is expected to see about 10 plays.
The Jets have until 9 p.m. ET on Friday to trim their roster down to the maximum 53 players. During the regular season and post-season, teams may dress a minimum of 43 and a maximum of 46 players for a game.
Starting on Saturday at noon eastern time, players may establish an eight-man practice squad. Eligible players are those free agents who do not have accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the 46-player active list for less than nine regular season games during each of any accrued seasons. A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
MADDEN 13 IS A HIT
There was a buzz earlier this week with the release of Madden 13 from EA Sports. I’m not as much of a “gamer” as I was when I was younger, but I will say that the game is impressive. Thanks to the great people at EA for the advance copy a couple of weeks ago, as it gave my son Bradley and I a head start on checking out this amazing game.
There are plenty of new features on this game such as pass trajectory, real voices of NFL quarterbacks — including Tim Tebow — and the ability to put together a legends team.
Also, when Tebow scores a touchdown, he “Tebows.” For what it’s worth, when Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz scores a touchdown, he salsas.
That’s all for now! Enjoy the game. Check back soon for more.
Think McElroy and the backups will finally find the end zone for NY? Be heard in the comments below!