The New York Jets were among the teams in the NFL who actually played their starting quarterback in their preseason opener. The Jets kicked off their preseason schedule against the New York Giants, with Sam Darnold starting under center.
The first drive for New York couldn’t have gone much better with Darnold completing four of his five passing attempts for 68 yards and a touchdown to cap it off. His day was over but Adam Gase had to be content with how things went for the second-year quarterback.
For Gase, he also realizes that he didn’t have Le’Veon Bell on the field with his starting offense yet. The huge question marks will be the play of Darnold and what the offensive line will look like during the regular season.
In their preseason opener, the Jets fell short against the Giants 31-22. Fortunately, the outcomes in the preseason don’t determine how you’ll perform when the regular season kicks off.
Now, in Week 2 of the preseason, we get to see more of the players who are competing for starting jobs or a spot on the 53-man roster. The Jets will take on the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game.
Here are three players to watch as the Jets face the Falcons this week.
3. Taylor Bertolet
Throughout this offseason, the Jets seemed to have an issue arise at the kicker position with Chandler Catanzaro hitting a rough patch in training camp. His struggles carried over into the Jets’ first preseason game where he made his only field-goal attempt but he missed two of his extra-point tries.
Just a couple of days after their preseason opener, the 28-year old kicker unexpectedly called it a career and retired from the NFL. In his place, New York signed Taylor Bertolet, an undrafted free agent from the 2016 NFL Draft.
This will be Bertolet’s second stint with the Jets organization after the placekicker spent time with the team in 2018—before Jason Myers won the job. This time around, it seems as if Bertolet will be the first kicker to get a chance to start for New York in 2019.
Watching a kicker may not be the most exciting part of the game but the Jets need to find a reliable one before the regular season gets underway.
Bertolet will get his first shot at the job against the Falcons in his preseason debut.
2. Jachai Polite
Last year, the Jets were a middle of the pack team in terms of sacking the quarterback. In 2018, New York was able to accumulate 39 sacks as a team—which was tied for 16th most in the NFL.
Thus, the Jets viewed their pass-rush as an area of improvement for the 2019 season. The Jets used their third-round selection to draft Jachai Polite out of Florida.
Polite dazzled with 11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles in his last season at Florida. Throughout the draft process, scouts realized the talent that Polite possessed but questioned his work ethic.
Despite that, Polite has focused on perfecting his game this offseason to help the Jets win games. The rookie edge-rusher only managed to get two tackles in his preseason debut against the Giants.
The Jets’ third-round pick will want to improve upon that performance by showing up against the Falcons in Week 2 of the preseason.
1. Elijah McGuire
Of course, the Jets signed Le’Veon Bell this offseason to be the workhorse running back in the offense. Therefore, the guys behind him are competing for depth positions on the roster.
Besides Bell, the team also signed Ty Montgomery to bolster their backfield. That leaves Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, and Trenton Cannon to contend for the remaining roster spots.
Among them, McGuire may have the most upside of the three remaining running backs. McGuire is entering his third season with the Jets but he has been seldom used in their offense.
The reason why McGuire stands out is that he is only 25-years old and he has the ability to be a receiving threat as well. In today’s NFL, running backs have to be able to catch the ball consistently if they want to be a reliable weapon in the offense.
The Jets third-year running back was given the most touches of the running backs who played in New York’s preseason opener. McGuire had 12 touches for 51 yards and one touchdown.
The young running back will want to continue carrying the bulk of the workload in the Jets preseason game versus the Falcons in Week 2.