With preseason about to get underway, it's customary for writers and bloggers to tell you what to watch out for. Immediately a consensus is established: The quarterback battle, the rookie safeties, young players stepping up in the wake of recent injuries.
We'd like to dig a bit deeper and identify some things which haven't been talked about as much but will play just as big of a role in shaping the roster for the upcoming season and contributing to its success or otherwise.
Add yours in the comments!
Rontez Miles could have a different role this year, as he lost an astonishing 26 pounds to presumably get in shape for more of a ranging center field role. It's a role he's played in the past, but he had piled on the pounds to play primarily in the box and on special teams over recent seasons.
Everyone's been raving about Miles and saying he's having a great camp, primarily based on the fact he picked off a couple of errant passes in the last two practices. However, is this optimism unfounded?
While he certainly seems to be in shape, there have been a few big plays in training camp and one in the Green & White Scrimmage where he's overrun a play in deep center field and allowed the receiver to go all the way.
The Jets gave up so many big plays in the offseason that adding two disciplined safeties like Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye was obviously a move directly targeted towards ensuring that happens a lot less. However, Todd Bowles has talked a lot about three safety looks and Miles would seem to be the most obvious candidate to take the deep role in such sets, with Maye and Adams up in the box or covering the slot.
It's crucial that Miles maintains his discipline if he's used in this way, especially with mitigating the threat of big plays being such a high priority. If he falters, someone like Doug Middleton, Ronald Martin or Shamarko Morris will jump ahead of him.
We'll be keeping a close eye on Miles tonight, to see how his positional play is when playing deep.
Sixth Man of the Year
Something the Jets have worked on in camp that hasn't received much attention is the use of packages that employ six offensive linemen. While this is common in goal line situations, previous Jets regimes have had some success in making this a more regular feature in their running game with the likes of Wayne Hunter, Jason Smith and Vladimir Ducasse proving more useful than they typically did in starting roles.
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins suspended for the first few games, a lack of experience at tight end and fullback generally and some decent depth on the offensive line, employing extra run blockers situationally seems to be something the team is exploring.
Both Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana have been used as a jumbo tight end in the past, but there's an outside chance each of them will be in the starting line-up. Someone else they've been working with in this role is Dakota Dozier, which makes sense because he seems unlikely to start, but they're obviously happy with him as a back-up guard/center who is capable of making spot starts in the event of an injury, so he should be on the roster.
Could this be something they road-test in preseason, or will they keep this strategy under wraps for potential usage against a certain opponent?
Leaving it all on the line
Something else that's been apparent from camp footage is that the Jets seem intent on using more conventional three-man fronts than they have over the past few years.
That's always been their intention, but they've been abandoning it in lieu of ensuring they get their best players on the field. Many people overreacted to the fact Sheldon Richardson was listed as a starter at "DL/LB" on the team's first official depth chart, but Bowles said he had no input into that.
Are they happy enough with their outside linebackers to actually stick with this plan? Will they be prepared to leave Richardson on the bench in base sets (as they did in the Green & White Scrimmage) or play Leonard Williams out of position at the nose to get all their talisman linemen onto the line together?
We may even see a shift back towards more two-gapping from the linemen. This enables the linemen to read and react rather than just focus on attacking, which perhaps suits Muhammad Wilkerson's game better and could lead to him re-establishing his dominance from previous seasons.
The defensive line is always interesting to watch because, although the starters don't get much run in preseason, there are plenty of reps available for the reserves to try and stand out. Could guys like Claude Pelon or Lawrence Thomas, who did well in preseason last year, take their game to the next level?
We'll keep a close eye on the defensive strategy and personnel packages to see if we can get any obvious clues as to what we can expect during the regular season.