The 2011 New York Jets take the field at home for the first time this season, as they host the Cincinnati Bengals tonight. Each team dropped their first preseason game. With starters on each side expected to play into the second quarter we will start to get a better feel for both teams, though there will be some expected starters missing from the lineup.
On offense, the Jets will be missing Brandon Moore once again, as well as Shonn Greene. Nick Mangold returns at center for his first action of the preseason, and Plaxico Burress makes his Jets debut. Vlad Ducasse will line up at right guard again in place of Moore. Expect a heavy dose of LaDainian Tomlinson early in place of Greene, before he hands over the reins to Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell.
Look for the Jets to open up with some quick throws early to get Mark Sanchez in a rhythm, much like they did last week against the Houston Texans. I would expect Burress to be targeted within the first series, to get him a catch early so he can settle down and get into the flow of the game. Tomlinson is expected to handle all the running back duties with the first team.
On defense, Bart Scott and Sione Pouha will be sitting this game out. Calvin Pace may also sit out, which opens up some holes in the front seven. Josh Mauga, who made his presence felt last week, will be filling in for Scott. Martin Tevaseu and Kenrick Ellis are expected to share Pouha's reps, and Jamaal Westerman should get the majority of Pace's plays if he does miss the game.
The newest Jet, outside linebacker Aaron Maybin, will be plugged in for some pure pass-rushing situations. At this point the Jets don't want to overload him as he catches up on the defensive playbook, so they will evaluate him doing the one thing he was brought here for – getting after the quarterback. Muhammad Wilkerson will be at defensive end with the first group again, our first opportunity to evaluate him for any significant amount of time against NFL competition. We may even get a peek at the defensive line of the future for some plays, with Ellis and Wilkerson playing together.
For the Bengals, this is the first of a few "welcome to the NFL" moments for some of their offensive rookies. Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green will be lining up across from Darrelle Revis, possibly Antonio Cromartie on some plays, which will surely be a different experience from any he had playing in college. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will see one of the best secondaries in the NFL, no easy task for any quarterback, let alone one making his second preseason start. I think both of these rookies have bright futures, but almost every bright future is realized after some bumps in the road, and this looks to be one of them. I think this experience will be a positive for these two players moving forward. At least Dalton won't have to deal with Bart Scott chirping at him from across the line of scrimmage.
The biggest thing to look for tonight is if the Jets are able to control the tempo of the game. Don't pay attention to the score, pay attention to the flow of the game.
Is Sanchez in sync with his receivers? Can Ducasse fill in with the first offensive line group? Which new faces can step up in a pinch on defense?
These are the questions the Jets look to answer tonight. Injuries have provided opportunities for young players to prove themselves. We'll see who takes advantage.
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