Ladies and Gentlemen, the NFL is back… Sort of. Week 1 of the pre-season is a time that means so much and so little at the same time. While it’s exciting to see the league’s stars start to shake off the rust and get back into the swing of things, it’s also the time where over reactions run rampant. With that said, here’s what I took away from the Jets’ exhibition opener, large grain of salt included.
1. Coples Comes to Play
The pre-season doesn’t matter for everyone; in fact, the goal of most veterans is merely to escape it injury free. That’s not the case for Quinton Coples, who has had a quiet camp and has faced questions about his motor from day one.
There was no questioning anything today. While it’s far too early to say whether this was the exception or the rule, Coples showed tonight why the Jets took a chance on his tantalizing physical skills in the first round of this year’s draft. He recorded a sack, deflected a pass, and was a force against the run. Most importantly, he looked engaged and motivated, which will go a long way towards Coples realizing his vast potential and the Jets defense realizing theirs.
2. Typical Tebow
Last night, we saw exactly what we’ve come to expect from Tim Tebow, for better and for worse. He made something out of seemingly nothing with his legs several times, rushing for 34 yards on 4 carries, including a couple of 3rddown conversions. He also threw a brutal interception with the offense in scoring position, never taking his eyes off of intended target Jeff Cumberland. He even managed to fit in one of his overwhelmingly charming interviews. The best of what Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano have in mind for Tebow will almost certainly be kept under wraps until the games count, but week 1 of the pre-season was a win for his supporters and critics alike.
3. Offensive Line Woes Continue
Last season, Mark Sanchez took 39 sacks, the 5thhighest total in the league. He took two more tonight in only one quarter of play, making it virtually impossible for the starting offense to establish a rhythm. This time, the blame can’t be placed on everyone’s favorite punching bag, Wayne Hunter, who sat out with tightness in his lower back. It was a disappointing start for a line that enters the season unchanged despite a poor 2011 and a strong reminder of why, though the deal was ultimately voided, the team acquired Jeff Otah just two weeks ago.
4. McKnight Makes His Move
While Bilal Powell has been one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp, Joe McKnight made the strongest case for the 3rd down and change of pace slots in the opener. He ran 6 times for 33 yards and added three catches for 34 yards, showing off the open field skills that have made him such a force in the return game. More encouraging was his authoritative running style, something he has often lacked as a pro. Powell failed to carry over his camp performance, rushing for only 16 yards on 5 carries. While the momentum has swung back to McKnight’s side, this battle is far from over.
5. Receiving Some Bad News
I know, I know… Santonio Holmes (ribs) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) sat out the game and neither injury appears to be a long-term concern. However, it’s been proven time and time again that injuries do happen, and the Jets are woefully thin at wide receiver. Stephen Hill had a couple of nice catches, but also had a drop and is very raw. Chaz Schilens who started for Holmes and seventh round rookie Jordan White, who has received high praise in camp, were both held catch-less. Ryan and Sparano can talk “Ground and Pound” all they want, but they need a passing game that can at least keep defenses honest and the receiving corps, as presently constructed, might not offer that punch.