By Ernie Palladino
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This is the way it always happens in New York football.
All the noise comes out of Jets camp in the preseason. Were the Super Bowl contested in August and determined by controversy and public relations, the Jets’ trophy case would be filled to overflowing by now.
Meanwhile, the Giants go about their business in relative quiet. Oh, there’s the occasional outburst from their talkative defensive captain Justin Tuck as he fires back at good old boy Jerry Jones, who swears his team is going to turn around a 1-5 trend against the Giants. But other than that, it’s basically watching them work, watching for the next cornerback to go down for the season, and waiting for the real football to begin.
That happens Wednesday, when the Giants host Jones’ team. Then, everything evens out. Only this year, things could be a lot more even between a defending Super Bowl champion and an 8-8 flop than anyone expects.
Both the Giants and Jets go into the season with major issues, though this is nothing new. The Giants are looking at major problems at cornerback for a second straight year, with the same two players from 2011 providing the stress. Only this time, Terrell Thomas has virtually ended his Meadowlands career with a sprained ACL that landed him on season=-ending injured reserve. Prince Amukamara, out the first nine games of ‘11 with a broken foot, now has a high ankle sprain that will certainly keep him out Wednesday and possibly beyond.
Besides that, their offensive line is still trying to get Will Beatty back at left tackle after back spasms knocked him out of camp. Sean Locklear did well enough there to allow Tom Coughlin to keep David Diehl at his new right tackle spot, but he sure would like it if Beatty made a quick, effective return just to solidify things.
The Jets have their own problems, and not one of them is named Tim Tebow. If they proved anything this summer, it is that Mark Sanchez is, for better or worse, the real quarterback here. Tebow is going to be a nice Wildcat option, but to trust him with anything more than handing off or running will represent a huge gamble on offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s part.
No, the problem is not behind the center. It’s to the far right of center, where Rex Ryan sounds like he’s ready to create a tackle controversy between his new starter, Austin Howard, and Jason Smith, the draft bust he got from St. Louis in return for his own failed right tackle, Wayne Hunter.
Smith will start out as the swing tackle and jumbo tight end. But if Howard falters, don’t expect a lot of understanding out of Ryan. He knows all about Sanchez’ fragile psyche. If Howard and/or Smith can’t protect better than Hunter, Ryan is going to have a bigger distraction than Sanchez’ relationship with Eva Longoria to worry about.
With Hakeem Nicks (toe) and Ahmad Bradshaw (hand) due back and Eli Manning hitting his prime, the Giants’ offense once again as the potential to be better than a defense that is hurting up the middle and in right-side coverage.
If Bart Scott proves he still has it and La’Ron Landry stays clear of injury, the Jets’ defense could be one of the best in the league, and miles better than the offense, even with Santonio Holmes.
Whether that translates into 8-8 seasons or playoff runs for both teams remains to be seen.
An all-New York Super Bowl? Nah. Remember, the Giants almost weren’t a playoff team last year.
But don’t expect either team to run away with things in New York, either.
They’re a lot more alike than people think.
Are the Giants and Jets even on paper? Share your thoughts below…