BGA is back...and this time it's preseasonal (again)!
Coming up, part one of your breakdown of Friday night's preseason game, focusing on the offense, including a breakout performance from an undrafted rookie receiver, a key positional battle tightening up and some role-juggling at the threadbare running back spot.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the first team offense were victims of circumstance to some extent, only getting to run three plays in the first quarter due to the defense giving up long drives and mostly forced to deal with bad field position. The Jets went three-and-out on that first quarter possession, fumbled the ball away in their own territory on the second drive and then picked up a couple of first downs on the third series with the drive stalling before midfield. Todd Bowles cut his losses at that point and went to the second unit.
Fitzpatrick threw nine passes, completing just four, one of which was fumbled away by Kellen Davis. His best completion saw him find Eric Decker downfield for a first down. He had one other nice throw out to the sideline but that one was dropped. On the whole, there's not too much to judge him on, but the reason the Jets shelled out $12 million to keep him in the fold was more apparent from what happened after he left the game.
Geno Smith took over from Fitzpatrick in the second quarter and gave a thoroughly uninspiring performance, both in terms of his performance and his body language. He ended up completing 6-of-13 passes for 47 yards, but five of those completions came on an ultimately fruitless two-minute drill at the end of the half. Prior to that he'd thrown the ball six times and only completed one pass, as he had issues with making reads, timing, accuracy and footwork.
Smith had one pass broken up and another intercepted because he stared down his target and didn't see - or account for - another defender dropping off their man into the passing lane. He had one pass dropped by Jace Amaro, but that should have been an easy throw as he threw it behind him on the roll-out. His hesitation also led to him getting flagged for intentional grounding as he eventually threw the ball away, but didn't get it back to the line of scrimmage.
The most positive thing I can say to defend him is that perhaps some of the timing and accuracy issues are not his fault. As an example, he had one throw (to Robby Anderson) broken up because the throw was too late and then another was thrown on time but behind the receiver (Charone Peake) on fourth down. Or did the receiver break too early on the first one and too late on the second one?
These are issues Smith has had in the past, seemingly waiting for a receiver to make his break before making the throw and giving a defender time to recover and break it up. Is this because he doesn't trust the receiver to make the break at the right moment so is reluctant to let the throw go? Perhaps, but that's the wrong approach. On fourth down, he made the right decision to release the throw when he did and trust the receiver to break to the right spot. We'll never know if that throw was off-line or the receiver just made his break a little late, but he seemed to put it in a spot where an easy completion could have been made.
As we'll see, third-stringer Bryce Petty was able to generate production from the same set of receivers though. While that's perhaps partly due to the fact he has better chemistry with those reserves after Smith spent much of the offseason working with starters, it still doesn't reflect well on Smith.
Petty was noticeably progressing through his reads on some plays and his footwork remains superior to Smith's. Smith wasn't stepping into his throws, even when he apparently had room to do so. This forces him to rely more on his arm to get the ball there, which is always risky.
However, while Petty's final numbers were very good (16-of-26, 242 yards, two touchdowns), there were still warning signs that he could be a liability at times if he was to be called into real action at this stage of his career.
One throw sailed over the middle and should have been intercepted. On another, he didn't see the linebacker dropping into the passing lane and had his pass broken up. He also struggled with pressure on a couple of occasions.
On the whole, though, it was a positive performance from Petty against Washington's back-ups. He mostly threw the ball well and, even though his consistency was lacking at times, some of the successful throws he had were highlight reel material. That's sure to get some people in his corner to earn the number two job outright. We still need to see more though.
Christian Hackenberg remains glued to the bench. We likely won't see him until the Bollinger Bowl.
Running backs and full backs
The Jets' running back situation is wafer thin at the moment, as they rested players who have been dealing with injuries and obviously felt that none of their recent additions would be ready to handle any snaps on offense.
Bilal Powell made the start, carried three times for 23 yards and was done for the day. One of his runs saw him break a tackle in the backfield to take it outside and another gained 10 on a burst up the middle. He also dropped a dump-off pass that was rushed by a pressured Fitzpatrick.
Behind Powell, the Jets simply employed full back Tommy Bohanon in single back sets, as they had been doing in practice. Bohanon's backup Julian Howsare also saw time at half back and the Jets basically abandoned the running game altogether.
I don't know if Bohanon was employed at tailback because they don't trust the other backups yet or because he was impressive in that role in practice, but he dropped a pass, fumbled a hand-off and had serious issues in picking up blitzes, so it didn't go well.
When I spoke to Bohanon in London last year, he said all the right things about being happy to carry out his role, but did admit he'd like to see more of the ball. However, could he ironically be playing himself off the team by getting reps as a running back? With Bohanon getting reps there, the Jets obviously had no requirement for a full back, so it might get them thinking that maybe they can save a roster spot by not having one. On a Howsare short yardage conversion, they employed tight end Zach Sudfeld there and he executed the lead block.
Howsare also caught a short pass and was open on the outside for another throw which was behind him. Again, though, by getting involved at this position, he didn't get any chances to lead block, which is really the role he's auditioning for.
Presumably the running game will look a lot different once the likes of Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson can suit up.
Receivers and tight ends
Once again, the starters didn't feature much, with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker catching just one pass each and Quincy Enunwa playing just two snaps before leaving with a head injury. However, this game was all about the rookie, Anderson.
With six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, Anderson impressed with his ability to make contested catches and create downfield separation. Anderson also created another first down by drawing a hold. He was easily the biggest bright spot in an otherwise largely dismal Jets performance. However, it creates a dilemma because his performance thrusts him into the mix at a position where the Jets were already trying to find space for some talented youngsters.
The Jets have a history of unknown wide receivers making a name for themselves in preseason but then going on to enjoy limited success on the main roster. Aundrae Allison and David Clowney are the two names that immediately spring to mind. Anderson will be hoping to prove he can go one step further.
Peake and Jalin Marshall are the two main guys that Anderson will be trying to jump ahead of. Both had four catches, but neither was mistake-free, which Anderson seemingly was. Peake had a drop on a slant pattern, was tackled in the open field twice and should have been flagged for a push-off. He bounced back to pick up consecutive first downs on slant routes though. Sanders also dropped a quick slant and perhaps needs to be more physical, as three of his targets were broken up. He had three first downs and drew another on a pass interference call, though, breaking a tackle to get to the marker on his best play.
Having not played last week, Kenbrell Thompkins saw brief action early and was thrown to twice, but neither was particularly close. Kyle Williams also made his first appearance but had a miserable day, getting called for a penalty, whiffing on a screen block and failing to locate the ball on a fade pattern. He had one other target, getting some downfield separation but the pass was overthrown. Jeremy Ross continues to make the most of his few chances though, making a tough leaping catch for a first down on a ball thrown slightly behind him.
At tight end, Kellen Davis set the edge well on an early run, but badly lost a fumble deep in Jets territory as he tried to reach for the first down marker. Sudfeld looked to be putting together a good case to challenge him, but then he also lost a fumble down near the goal line, as the Jets looked set to take a late lead. Prior to that, Sudfeld had a nice touchdown, doing well to haul in a contested catch in the end zone.
Somewhat surprisingly Brandon Bostick was actually in the starting lineup, along with Davis, but he got burned on the inside for a pressure on the very first snap. He gave up another pressure later on, but did show his pass catching abilities with a couple of catches downfield, although one was negated by a penalty.
Jace Amaro didn't help himself at all. He caught two short passes, one of which came up short of the marker on third down. On two other targets, he failed to come up with catchable balls. He also was tentative as a blocker on a couple of plays.
Chandler Worthy, Jason Vander Laan and Wes Saxton did not see any time, with Devin Smith still on the PUP list.
The Jets continue to mix-and-match on the offensive line, as they've used eight different starters through two games. Those eight could well all be on the 53-man roster and, whether they did it by design or not, it could prove beneficial to see some different combinations.
So far, Ryan Clady and Brian Winters are the only players to start both games. James Carpenter made his return at left guard, replacing Dakota Dozier, who worked at center with the second unit. Wesley Johnson got the start at center, with Nick Mangold resting.
Right tackle is where it remains most interesting, though, as it was the turn of Brent Qvale to get the start this week with Breno Giacomini still on the PUP list. Ben Ijalana played left tackle with the second unit, while Qvale stayed in to get some extra work on the right.
Qvale responded well, generally staying in front of his man in pass protection. Although he was driven back and allowed upfield leverage a few times, he was only really beaten once on the inside and that was on a quick pass. He also had one excellent reach block in the running game.
Ijalana spoke recently about the adjustment in moving to the right side from his more natural left tackle position. He should therefore have been more at home yesterday, but he got beaten on the outside a few times in pass protection. He also allowed his man to bottle up a run. He had one good driving block in the running game though. Is Ijalana now more at home on the right side or will Qvale's superior performance in this game move him ahead of the more experienced player?
Winters had one good cut block at the second level, but otherwise had his struggles at right guard. He was called for a blatant hold and badly beaten in pass protection, forcing Fitzpatrick to throw the ball away. He also messed up a double-team combination block with Johnson on the first series. Johnson otherwise fared quiet well, making a good reach block on one running play and not surrendering any pressure.
The two established starters on the left side held up well, although both were driven back in the pocket once or twice. Clady set the edge well on one run, but also whiffed on a second level block. Carpenter had one good interior block to open up a big running lane.
With the second unit, Dozier made some impressive run blocks at center. He had one bad snap and his recognition could perhaps have been better on one stunt, but he gives the organization comfort that he could handle that role in an emergency, as he did last season.
Craig Watts and Mike Liedtke worked at guard with the second unit. After a good game last week, Watts was less impressive at the point of attack this week, but had a couple of positive run blocks. Liedtke started well, with a driving run block, but was less consistent as the game went on. He had a penalty to negate a first down and allowed penetration to blow up a run.
Rookie Brandon Shell got some late reps at left tackle and held up well, only getting beaten outside once. arvis Harrison came in at right tackle and continues to be a disappointment. Harrison is a player whose strength is thought to be run blocking, so entering the game late and being forced to pass protect on 14 of 15 plays was unfortunate for his chances to impress, especially when playing tackle. He was beaten a handful of times, including a late sack that iced the game and on the play where Anderson scored which you can see below.
Finally, Jesse Davis and Kyle Friend did not get into the game.
Next up…Moving on to the defense where a somewhat rocky performance leaves us scrambling for bright spots…