Preview: Jets at Eagles Preseason Finale

It’s the final game of the preseason, which means a very large majority of starters will not play tonight. The last preseason is a chance for the players sitting on the roster bubble to prove that they are worthy of a roster spot, if not for the team they are suiting up for tonight than they at least hope to do enough to catch the eye of another team. The fourth preseason game is not for the casual fan, only diehards need to bother tuning in for the final dress rehearsal of the season. Which fringe players will make an impression and solidify their role on the team? If this is something that interests you greatly then you will be sure to enjoy every second of the game, if not don’t worry the real games, the ones that count, start next week and that’s something everyone can agree is simply fantastic.

WHEN AND WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA. Tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST (TV-CBS/Radio-ESPN 98.7.

“I’m excited to see some guys who haven’t had a whole lot of reps. I’m excited to see (Greg) McElroy play, and (Matt) Simms only had the one scrimmage and he looked good in it, so I’m excited to see him. (Terrence) Ganaway, (we are) going to see him get a chance. He’s going to play some tailback and some “A” back if you will and (even) some fullback.” Rex Ryan said, “I want to see these young guys compete and there are some roster spots still up for grabs. Let’s see that happen. Let’s see how good of a coach Gug (Dave DeGuglielmo) is and get Jason Smith out there. I hope they (the Eagles) don’t give us too much on defense because the guy (Smith) has been here for about five hours. We’ll see how sharp he is. It’s a good test.”

The fourth and final preseason game is upon us, which means most starters sit out and the bottom of the roster tries to work their way up. There's no better way to secure a spot on the team than to keep this guy, Mike Westhoff, happy with special teams play. (Jetsinsider.com Photo)

With both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow both sitting this game out the burden of scoring the first touchdown of the preseason now falls on the shoulders of Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. McElroy was the darling of the preseason last year before breaking his wrist and then shooting his mouth off about the locker room turmoil after the season ended, tonight he gets a chance to work his way back into the hearts of Jets fans. Simms, son of ex-Giants quarterback Phil Simms, will see his first game action and will be looking to prove himself to the Jets and the other 31 teams around the league who will watch film of this game.

“I think there’s a possibility of John Conner getting some reps, because quite honestly we haven’t used the fullback. We tried (Nick) Bellore there a little bit, maybe he’ll get a few snaps there. I want to see (Terrance) Ganaway in that role a little bit, that’s a possibility. Austin Howard, I’d like to see him get a few snaps. I think we’re going to give him 11 snaps. That’s a long story, you’ll have to ask Tony (Sparano) about that. I want to see him play and I want to see (Quinton) Coples play. Coples is a rookie and I want to see him play. (Stephen) Hill has had so many reps, that I don’t know. I’m still not sure about that one yet.”

John Conner was a Ryan and fan favorite during training camp his rookie year, when Ryan dubbed Conner ‘The Terminator’ on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ but since then Conner has been a disappointment. Yes Conner is capable of delivering some violent hits from time to time, but he has failed to live up to expectations. His fundamentals aren’t sound and he often delivers just glancing blows on blocks instead of taking the defender head on. The Jets have been experimenting with linebacker Nick Bellore and rookie running back Terrance Ganaway at fullback, making it that much more crucial for Conner to use tonight to prove he can solidify the fullback position and those guys can go back to their normal roles. If he can’t the Jets could decide to move on and open up a roster spot for another player by occasionally using Bellore or Ganaway at fullback.

Austin Howard is the starting right tackle for the Jets right now and with the way he has played so far in the preseason it would seem he will have that spot locked down for at least a couple of weeks. The trade for Jason Smith gives Howard some competition down the road, but Smith has a lot of catching up to do before he can even hope of claiming the starting role. Despite the fact that Howard is the starter, he will play tonight due to the fact that he is so young and needs as many reps as he can get. Smith will play around 10 snaps, the Jets would like to play him more but he simply hasn’t had enough time to prepare himself for anymore than 10 snaps.

Quinton Coples will have a significant role in this defense as we enter the season, but he’s still a rookie and Ryan wants him to continue getting his feet wet. Ryan is using the same train of thought his dad used with rookies like William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry, play them as much as you can in preseason so they’re not rookies anymore once the season starts.

The Jets started out this preseason with zero pass blocking tight ends on the roster, last week they had the first three tight ends available (a fourth Jeff Cumberland was already sitting out of the game recovering from a concussion), leave the game with injuries. Josh Baker is done for the season, Dustin Keller hurt his hamstring but wouldn’t be playing tonight anyway and even Dedrick Epps had to leave the last game with an injury. Which left only Hayden Smith, the Australian born former basketball and rugby player as the only available tight end. Smith has all the athletic ability needed to play in the NFL, he has proven that much, what he still needs to prove is that he can get a firm understanding of the game and get his technique and fundamentals down pat. Smith hasn’t gotten a lot of reps, not even many reps in practice of late, but that will change tonight as he makes one last push, most likely, for the practice squad.

With teams having to trim their rosters to 53, plus practice squad, after the final game there will be plenty of players that the Jets will be forced to release and there’s no more interesting position to look at for these cuts than linebacker. Linebacker is easily the Jets deepest position with players such as David Harris, Bart Scott (guaranteed money), Calvin Pace (guaranteed money), Aaron Maybin, DeMario Davis all making the team. One would think Bryan Thomas would be likely to make the final 53 and then there’s Garrett McIntyre, Nick Bellore and Josh Mauga who all have traits the Jets want in their linebackers. Ricky Sapp has been victimized by his inability to stay healthy and it may very well cost him a roster spot as he will not be able to suit up and rookie Marcus Dowtin has a lot of potential and ability, but will have a lot of work to do tonight to cement his spot on the team.

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