The annual New York Jets vs. New York Giants preseason game has been dubbed the MetLife Bowl, played between the teams that inhabit MetLife Stadium. The winning team gets a trophy of Snoopy (the cartoon character), but the game is decided by players that often don't even make the roster. There is plenty more to pay attention to other than the final score. The Jets will be looking to improve on some areas that were exposed in the previous preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. What should we be watching?
Physicality: This always tops the list in preseason games. The final score, fluke plays, blown coverages and plenty of other stuff that happens doesn't translate directly to the regular season. Being the more physical team up front certainly does. In 2010, the Jets lost the game but their first team was clearly the more physical group. They went on to have a very good season. Last year the Jets own the game, but that first group wasn't nearly as physical. As we all know, the season didn't turn out the way the Jets hoped it would. The Jets are looking to get back to being bullies and need to regain their identity as an aggressive team. If the offensive and defensive lines can show that tonight, things are looking up.
Pass Protection: The Jets struggled in pass protection last week, especially against the blitz. Tonight they will face one of the best defensive lines in football. The Jets offensive line needs to show the ability to protect quarterback Mark Sanchez, whether against a four-man rush or any blitz packages thrown at them. At the very least, no mental mistakes that allow a free rusher on Mark Sanchez.
Quinton Coples: After a strong showing against the Bengals, expect Quinton Coples to see some time with the first team defense. Can he perform against the first team offensive linemen? We should get a chance to take a look tonight. Adding a productive Quinton Coples to the first defensive line would be huge for the defense.
Special Teams: The special teams weren't special last week. There were some substitutions in there when the punt blocked, but it's simply unacceptable. Mike Westhoff has surely cleaned it up, now can the players execute?
Royce Pollard, Marcus Dowtin and Ryan Steed: These three players have a real shot to make the team. Can they make a play that pushes them up the depth chart and into real contention for a spot on the 53-man roster? Just a few seasons ago, Victor Cruz made a mark in this game and had a huge season last year. It might not take a performance like that, but keep an eye on Royce Pollard, Marcus Dowtin and Ryan Steed.
Most importantly, the Jets are looking to get better and stay healthy. Preseason is all about progress and not losing any players that are expected to play big roles this season. When it comes to the Jets, even just the first point in the article will suffice: be the more physical football team. Do that, and everything else tends to fall into place.
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