Thursday night, the New York Jets wrap up their preseason schedule against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Meadowlands, the team’s final tune up in preparation for the regular season.
The Eagles, fresh off an exciting 33-32 comeback victory over Jacksonville on Sunday night, come to town touting their latest controversial prized-acquisition; QB Mike Vick.
While the idea of facing the 6-foot, athletic freak with a rocket left arm, is enough to make any defensive unit lose sleep, the concept does not apply to the New York Jets. In fact, they embrace it.
“He’s a tremendous player, said LB Bart Scott. “What you have to do against Michael Vick is make sure your edges are set. You want to make sure you stir the pocket in the middle and set the edges. He’s a shorter quarterback, so you want to stir the pocket and get visual lanes. It will be a great test for us to see where we are at.”
“It gives us great work going in. We have to come out of the gates. We have a tough schedule coming up. It is important for us to be hitting our strides. For a lot of our guys, (Darrelle) Revis and (Kris) Jenkins, it’s going to be only their second preseason game. We have to build chemistry with those guys.”
DT Kris Jenkins echoed the sentiments of Scott, expressing his excitement to face the former Atlanta Falcon QB.
“I am looking forward to playing against him,” said Jenkins. “When I was in Carolina we had quite the rivalry while he was at Atlanta. There are still a lot of, we’ll say, memories with that.”
Vick, playing for the first time in over two years last week against Jacksonville, appeared in six Wildcat plays. The former Pro-Bowler, completed all four of his passes, including a 13-yard completion to WR Hank Baskett.
Head Coach Rex Ryan also stated that facing Vick is a challenge that he welcomes with open arms.
“It’s good for us because we’re definitely going to be challenged,” said Ryan. “(He’s) a guy that’s been a Pro Bowl quarterback for how many years and he’s going to be playing in the second half of a preseason game. I hope we get up early on him and then kind of hold our breath there. He is a great player and a great talent.”
“He’s dangerous. That the ideal guy, there’s no doubt. He’s a dual threat. He can run it. He can throw it. So that’s definitely presents a problem.”
Despite his high praise of the former Pro-Bowler, Ryan refuted the notion that the Jets were “game-planning” around Vick.
“We’re not game planning him,” said Ryan. “We’ll just play base defense and see what happens from there.”
Ryan stated Tuesday that he plans to get his starters in for one series, and the rest of the game will be competition between the backups for the final roster spots.
While it is speculated that QB Mark Sanchez will only play in one series, the rookie expressed that he is still unsure of the coaching staff’s plans for him on Thursday night.
“They haven’t said anything specific to me yet,” said Sanchez. “I’m just hearing from other guys, ‘Hey, you might not even play.’ So, that’s one scenario. Another scenario is a couple of series, but I’d love to get in the whole time. Houston is right around the corner so I want to be smart about it as well.”
“I think they know how bad I want to play. It’s just important to me and I need as much practice as possible before the first game.”
Eagles head coach Andy Reid stated on his weekly radio show that QB Donovan McNabb will not play against the Jets Thursday night and that QB Kevin Kolb will be the starter. Kolb, vying for the team’s back-up quarterback spot, has missed time during the preseason with a knee injury.
Vick will get some time in the Wildcat formation in the first half, and will start the second half at the quarterback position. QB A.J. Feeley will also likely take snaps in the second half for the Eagles.
Eagles offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, who has missed all of training camp with a back injury, returned to practice this week, and could see some action Thursday night.
“He’ll probably be in there and he’s a load,” said Ryan. “It’ll be good.”
Notes from Florham:
Thursday’s contest marks the ninth consecutive year that the Jets and Eagles have faced off in the preseason. It also marks the 29th time the two teams have met during the preseason with New York holding an 18-10 advantage over Philadelphia.
Last season, the Jets defeated the Eagles 27-20 in their preseason finale at Lincoln Financial Field. The win was highlighted by an impressive performance by then-rookie QB Erik Ainge. Ainge completed 10 of 16 passes that night, for 131 yards and a touchdown. Ainge’s performance earned him a roster spot as the team’s third-string quarterback, a position he still holds one year later.
“Play Like a Jet Today”:
Heading into the teams final preseason game, Ryan talked about how one of the key phrases he has preached heading into the regular season has been “Play like a Jet.”
“Something that I always talked in Baltimore was ‘play like a Raven,” said Ryan. “That’s what we’re trying to have here, to ‘play like a Jet.’ It’s going to mean something.”
“It’s going to mean that we care about each other. It’s going to mean that you’re going to get everything we’ve got and they’re not doing that for selfish reasons. They’re doing it to take care of each other and when you play this year, you’re playing against a football team not a group just of individuals. We’re going to play as a football team.”