JETS VS TEXANS, OUR “TOP FIVE” TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT
Tonight rings in the 2011 campaign. With it the natural question marks all teams will have going into a new season. For the Jets, much of the foundation that has brought two consecutaivre AFC championship appearances remains intact. For the New York Jets, there are both All pro players and standout units ready to take off as well as areas of concern and intrigue.
The following is a list of five areas we will be watching under a microscope tonight, as the Jets kick off their preseason schedule in Houston against the Texans:
1-THE RECEIVERS: Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and the all purpose Brad Smith are out. Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and camp sensation Jeremy Kerley are in. Despite the fact that Burress won’t play tonight due to an ankle injury, Jets fans still want to see some sort of positive relationship between QB Mark Sanchez and his targets. Former Colts offensive guru Tom Moore, now a Jets special assistant, brings with him the hopes that Dustin Keller will be featured the way Dallas Clark has been for years with Indy. All eyes will be on this connection, or lack thereof. Starting in Houston.
2-PRESSURE FROM THE KIDS: Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis were drafter to give the Jets size, power and pocket crushing potential in 2011. Wiklerson has already been named a starting defensive end. This unit has failed for years with regard to appyling consistent pressure. The focus will be on them to produce what only Rex Ryan blitzes have been able to provide in opposing team backfields over the past two years.
3-THE TERMINATOR: Former Jets FB Tony Richardson, the ageless wonder, kept Sanchez safe while plowing holes open during his time as a Jet. That job now belongs to John Connor. Missed assignments simply cannot afford to happen if the Jets plan to keep Sanchez upright in 2011.
4-THE RETURN GAME: Rookie Jeremy Kerley sits atop the depth chart at both kick and punt returner heading into Houston. Special Teams guru Mike Westhoff told ESPN radio last week that he is looking for the next guy in line to follow Brad Smith and Leon Washington. Westhoof mentioned Joe McKnight and Antonio Cromartie as possible players to look at as well this Summer. Regardless of who steps up into those roles, solid returns in the kicking game will help the Jets ease any concerns that the loss of the always productive Smith will hamper field position and big play potential.
5-THE KICKING GAME: We originally had this spot saved for Mark Brunell, hoping we’d see SOMETHING from a guy who has left us concerned that a long stretch without Mark Sanchez would leave the Jets in a precarious position. Now that Brunell has been ruled OUT, we’ll switch focus over to the kicking game.
Punter Chris Bryan leads TJ Conley in the race to replace Steve Weatherford. Nick Folk is the incumbent kicker but Nick Novak waits in the shadows for an opportunity to steal the job. BOTH positions need to be on autopilot as the Jets can ill afford issues with the kicking game.
Weatherford, now fighting for a job with the NY Giants, hit both long punts and clutch landings inside the 20 last year. Folk was extremely shaky midseason, but clutch later in the year. We’ll be keeping an eye on both battles for two spots that can often be the difference between winning and losing.