Previewing Preseason Game Number Four. Jets backups [And special guest star Santonio Holmes] versus Eagles Backups

The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles will play a game of football tonight. We know that with decent amount of certainty. Sure, the where, when, and what is simple enough. But personally, finding a totally sound explanation for this entire exercise is proving quite elusive.

Starters will not be suiting up for this particular exhibition, sparing fans and journalists from analyzing incomplete snapshots of offenses and defenses running mostly base packages. Sure, Mark Sanchez hasn’t been overly impressive thus far. And that Left Guard competition isn’t exactly lighting the world aflame, or inspiring a multitude of confidence in either competing party. The first team defense has looked strong, and LaDainian Tomlinson rejuvenated. Now, what will it all mean five minutes into the first real game of the season on Primetime against a tough Baltimore team? Who knows? Maybe that horrifying Ravens defensive line will wreak havoc, legitimizing concerns about a suddenly questionable line. [Damien Woody has been beaten a couple of times pretty badly pass protecting] Maybe Tomlinson rips off a long run and we smile, in quiet understanding, that the preseason isn’t a totally worthless predictive model. But then again, maybe not.

Because nothing provides a preseason reality check quite like the existential vacuum that is the fourth game. The finale. It’s the Last Waltz, without any heavy-hitting guest stars. Not an Eric Clapton or Neil Young in sight Well, Santonio Holmes, he of the upcoming four game suspension, is going to get plenty of burn. And Mark Brunell really needs to start showing something… or else… the Jets will feel slightly less confident about him standing on the sidelines in case of potentially season crippling emergency. Well, there is the downright commendable tale of Kellen Clemens, who appeared an ill-fitting cog in the Jets machine just weeks ago, only to rally against onrushing unemployment to secure a roster spot over developmental disappointment Kevin O’Connell. Now, if O’Connell and Clemens were still dueling, that’d make for an interesting storyline. Not exactly a duel protagonist denouement rivaling Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at the conclusion of “Heat,” but still a worthwhile subplot. Alas, we are left with Clemens potentially edging toward Brunell on the depth chart, even though when push comes to shove, the long tenured lefty will most likely be the first man off the bench should Mark Sanchez be injured. Even if Clemens went wild, hitting a ten on the Danny Woodhead dynamite fourth preseason game meter, his status as number three seems pretty well set. Clemens had to take a pay cut to remain a Jet, while Brunell was actively sought. If Clemens were to legitimately pressure Brunell, it would happen through the course of evaluations made during in-season practices.  The Eagles’ J.V. isn’t going to have that much of a say in the composition of the Jets’ roster.

Brunell. Clemens. One time, for all time.

And that’s another thing about this game, just from the standpoint of basic honesty. I could sit here and say the Jets are going to take a look at Vernon Gholston, or new linebacker Rickey Foley, judging them against potential pickup Adalius Thomas… but honestly, I think Tannenbaum and company know exactly what they are doing already. Will a few players on the bubble have a shot to turn heads? I suppose, but the Jets treated this game with such total apathy that they made the call on Clemens versus O’Connell before it even occurred. And could they be blamed? It’s extremely unlikely that the events of this evening lead the Jets to conclude,”Eh, who needs Thomas? Look what Player X just did to that backup Eagles lineman!” Show me the team that utilizes this methodology, and I show you a bottom feeder.

And as for the Eagles, Head Coach Andy Reid has a well-established reputation for not playing his starters week four of the preseason. One Eagle to watch will be the recently acquired Jorrick Calvin, a cornerback with experience returning kicks. Calvin was dealt by the team who drafted him, Arizona, for the player picked directly ahead of him in the draft, fullback Charles Scott. Scott was selected with the two hundredth pick, Calvin immediately following.

Former standout scrambling quarterback Michael Vick, a star with the Atlanta Falcons before a dog-fighting scandal, and subsequent prison sentence, marred his career, will play the entire first half. Vick could potentially become a massive piece of the Eagles’ puzzle, should starter Kevin Kolb go down for any extended period of time. Vick will surely pose a challenge for Vernon Gholston, who has shown questionable closing speed in the past. The Eagles also have preseason history with Danny Woodhead, who exploded for 158 yards in last season’s finale.

Ultimately, this game could be summed up thusly: When it is over, the contest itself will take a backseat to one simple fact: The preseason is over. Final roster adjustments will follow, and brace yourselves…

Prediction:

Michael Vick gives Eagles fans some damn good talking points, in case Kevin Kolb struggles and they feel like making irrational demands by the second quarter of week two. But a resurgent Kellen Clemens, targeting Holmes for about fifty catches, will carry the Jets to a 20-17 victory, foiling Vick’s show… What’s the spread? I hope you aren’t that sick.

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