Preseason is over, just nine days until the real fun starts!
Positives from the preseason:
Mark Sanchez: The rookie asserted himself as the worthy starter in the last two games, peaking with a 5-5, 67 yard, 1 TD performance last night against Philadelphia. That's a 158.3 QB rating folks, it doesn't get any better than that. We finally got to see what the kid could do with time to throw, and it was a beautiful thing.
Defensive aggression: Was the defense better this preseason under Rex Ryan than it was under Eric Mangini? No, but it was more aggressive with blitz packages, and we began to see some of the new attitude this defense is aiming for. Bart Scott is usually right in the middle of it, whether he's ripping the ball from Brandon Jacobs's hands or nearly starting a fight around the goalline yesterday. Once these guys figure out defensive schemes, they should be a force to be reckoned with. 18 sacks in a four-game preseason is the most of any team since the 2003 Patriots, so there are positive signs.
Leon Washington: The offensive MVP this preseason for the Jets is playing like he wants to get paid. Washington was dynamic every time he touched the football, making his case not just to get more money, but more offensive playing time as well.
David Harris: After a superb rookie season, Harris struggled a little bit last season largely due to injuries. However, the new regime seems to have brought out the beast inside #52 as he has arguably been the best defensive player during the four preseason games. Trade him for Brandon Marshall? Harris is proving that would be a mistake.
Erik Ainge and David Clowney
It's deja vu all over again, but instead of Brett Ratliff and David Clowney, it's Erik Ainge and David Clowney! Clowney had another long touchdown against Philadelphia as he was far and away the leading receiver in preseason. Ainge was pretty darn good himself. After most Jets fans had very low expectations for him, he has now played so well that he could challenge for Clemens's backup role.
Negatives from the preseason:
Rex Ryan went into camp hoping, praying to find a punter. For a ball-control offense relying on winning close games by running the ball and playing good defense, a punter will have a big impact on a lot of games. Unfortunately, the last man standing so far is Reggie Hodges and the Jets have tried ever since last season ended to replace him. And the worst part is he hasn't won the job. Everyone else just lost it.
It's great to be aggressive defensively, but the penalties have got to stop. Lito Sheppard has been burned for a few pass interference penalties, and he may be the main culprit, but 17 penalties for 196 games in the last two preseason games alone is pathetic. And the first-team defense is a major contributor to the high totals.
By cornerback, I mean anyone other than Darrelle Revis. Dwight Lowery and Lito Sheppard both got extensive playing time in the preseason, and neither played particularly well. Both showed some flashes of being a good complement to Revis, but the consistency was not there at a position where one let-down can lead to a huge play for the opposing team. Sheppard is going to be thrown at a ton this season, and after losing playing time in Philadelphia, it may take him some time to get used to bringing it every play. A week one matchup against Kevin Walter of the Texans necessitates that he better be almost ready for primetime.
Heading into 2009, a lot of people thought a lot of different things about Clemens. Some thought he sucked, some thought he deserved a fair chance at the job, some thought that if he couldn't beat out Chad Pennington, how could he beat out Mark Sanchez, and others thought that he should start to bring the young fella along slowly and to maximize Clemens's value. All had valid points, so it was intriguing to see how this would play out. However, when you get outplayed by a rookie both in training camp and in actual games, that's a major disappointment. Perhaps the most damning bit of information for Clemens is that the Jets tried to bring in former Patriots' backup Kevin O'Connell. The way Ainge has played this preseason, and Clemens's upcoming free agency means that it was more likely that Clemens would be the one on his way out, not Ainge.