Just five nights after battling the cross-town rival Giants, the Jets look to get their first win of the preseason in Carolina Saturday night at 8:00. In the first game, the starters did their jobs, but the backups failed to generate much either offensively or defensively, and the Jets fell 31-16. This week, the second and third units will have more chances to prove themselves, as the starters are only expected to play a quarter this time.
Carolina's offense is all about one thing: running the football. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both ran for 1000 yards last year, a rarity in the NFL. A lot of that had to do with the complete lack of trust in quarterback Jake Delhomme, who was benched late in the season in favor of Matt Moore. The unheralded Moore was effective down the stretch, but he's still very much and unknown going into next year.
Defensively, this is a game the Jets' first team defense needs to make a statement. The Panthers are a smash-mouth team with their dynamic runningbacks and top-notch offensive line. Normally, their main receiving weapon is Steve Smith, but he's still recovering from an offseason broken arm and isn't expected to play. Neither is Stewart, who always seems to be dealing with nagging injuries. Carolina is going to run the ball and try to find if they can uncover any diamonds in the rough at receiver.
The key for the first unit defense is to slow down the run, and not let Williams break a long one. The Jets were burned by a few big plays against the Giants. Carolina doesn't have the receiving depth that the Giants do, but then again, who knew who Victor Cruz was before Monday? The Panthers do have a lot of people fighting for roster spots and possibly even the starting spot opposite Smith.
The biggest name for Carolina's second team is former Notre Dame star Jimmy Clausen. The rookie wants to show the coaching staff that he is the quarterback of the future, and possibly even later this season.
But we probably won't see him until the 2nd half as Carolina should play Moore and the rest of the starters for most of the 1st half. That should give the Jets' staff a good chance to see some of the backups play against quality competition. After a disappointing first game, tonight will be a huge test for players to stand out and show why they should earn a roster spot and/or playing time.
Still, the Panthers are more of a running team, so the backup front seven will be tested early and often. Players who stand out could be able to make their case to make the final team.
Offensively, hope for Mark Sanchez to continue making strides. Outside of the very first pass of the game, he was extremely effective. Carolina's starting secondary is pretty good: most of their defensive yards last year were generated through the running game.
Last year, Sanchez was 13-17 (same as last week) for 154 yards and an interception against Carolina in a 17-6 win. That was the first week of the color-coded system Rex Ryan put in after the Jets had just lost six of seven games.
This week, it's all about just continuing to get better, and hopefully not throwing any interceptions. If he can make a play or two down the field, it would be a bonus. He certainly has the weapons now.
Of course, the biggest key is nobody getting hurt. The Jets were lucky in the first game, while the Giants had scares with QB Eli Manning and LB Chase Blackburn. In fact the Jets are probably the healthiest team in the league at this point. The only key player missing in action is CB Darrelle Revis, and we all know that's not because of an injury.