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First Test
By Justin Paley
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
August 1st, 2004

The Jets finally get to hit someone other than each other when they travel to the Big Easy for their preseason opener on Friday against the Saints. It should be a good test for the players and it will give the Coaches their first evaluations. Last pre-season, the two teams met at the Meadowlands with the Saints coming out on top, 22-17.

The Jets finally get to hit someone other than each other when they travel to the Big Easy for their preseason opener on Friday against the Saints. It should be a good test for the players and it will give the Coaches their first evaluations. Last pre-season, the two teams met at the Meadowlands with the Saints coming out on top, 22-17.

QB Chad Pennington talked about what the offense has to do early on. “We have to establish tempo, come out and play fast and go from there,” said the QB. “Obviously the young guys are going to get a lot of the reps but as veterans - when they get in there - they have to establish the tempo.

One thing you’ll see that you haven’t seen in several years is RB Curtis Martin getting lots of carries. Martin has typically played very little in preseason and it has translated into slow starts during the regular season. Last year, Martin did not get a carry until the third preseason game. The Jets hope by giving Martin more reps, it will jump start him for the season.

At 30 years old, Martin is getting used to some saying that he may be running out of gas. However, the workhorse isn’t phased by the critics.

“Personally, I don’t care”, said Martin. “I just look to prove them wrong. I’m feeling great and looking forward to the season.”

Martin and the rest of the starters will only be in the game for about 10-15 plays allowing younger players to showcase their talent. The younger players will see action in the 2nd and 3rd quarter and the 3rd and 4th stringers will play in the 4th quarter.

One of those younger players who should get a long look is RB Johnathan Reese. Reese has been very impressive this past week in practice.

QB Brooks Bollinger is in his second year with the Jets and has for the most part, struggled during training camp. Head Coach Herman Edwards has been quick to defend Bollinger, saying that the same was said about QB Chad Pennington his second year. Bollinger will see a lot of the action so the coaching staff can see how he performs in game situations. FA QB Ricky Ray should also get some significant time behind center as well.

Preseason is all about seeing what the rookies can do and all eyes will be on first-round draft pick LB Jonathan Vilma. Edwards said Vilma will receive a lot of playing time and the feisty LB is ready for game action.

“I’m very excited,” said Vilma. “It’s a regular game to me. I know it’s preseason and doesn’t count, but I haven’t played in eight months.”

The former University of Miami star talked about his personal goals for tomorrow’s game.

“The biggest thing is probably not to make too many mistakes”, said Vilma. Obviously I am going to make a couple but (I want to try) to eliminate the mistakes. I don’t want to get engulfed in right or wrong. I (just) have to play ball.”

Another player who fans are eager to see perform is rookie S Erik Coleman. The 5th round draft pick from Washington State has looked impressive in camp and with Reggie Tongue riding the pine with a calf injury, talk has lingered that Coleman may actually be the Jets starting strong safety on opening day.

Coleman talked about what he hopes to accomplish this week in New Orleans.

“I need to stay focused, get a take away and get some turnovers on defense,” Coleman said.

Besides a first look at Vilma and Coleman in game action, it will also be the first time for new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. Henderson is looking forward to seeing his young players on the field tomorrow.

“That is going to be interesting to see,” said Henderson. It is going to be important for us and our development to see how fast those guys can play against other people in a real live situation. We went up to play the Giants and it was still scrimmaging. Now we are going to go in there and have a clock and we are playing to win.”

Special teams is the best shot for many players to make the team. With WR Santana Moss out with a sore hamstring, many young players will get a chance to try out as a punt returner. WR Justin McCareins will start off by taking the first punt return. Then it will be a rotation consisting of RB Ian Smart, RB Josh Davis, and RB Roderick Bryant. It will be similar with kickoffs as WR Jonathan Carter will take the first, followed by Smart and Davis.

Jets kicker Doug Brien is unchallenged in training camp and has looked good so far. Brien is no stranger to the Saints, playing for them from 1995-2000.

Most Jets fans know the big three on the Saints are QB Aaron Brooks, RB Deuce McAllister, and WR Joe Horn. Brooks is questionable with a quad strain, McAllister has a sore knee but will probably play and Horn will also see limited action.

Like the Jets, the Saints want to see how their young players perform. On offense, rookie WR Devery Henderson has impressed Head Coach Jim Haslett. Henderson caught a 65-yard TD pass in the Black and Gold scrimmage last week. Defensively, rookie first round pick DE Will Smith, will look to impress in his first pro game. The Saints have a number of injuries, with 10 players sitting out practice yesterday.

Haslett feels one of the keys to winning will be stopping the Jets running game.

"We stress to our guys every day that we have to stop the run," said Haslett. "This game will be a good test since the Jets have two great running backs in LaMont Jordan and Curtis Martin. They have some receivers who can catch the ball. If we can stop this team with those backs, that will say something."

Edwards feels his team is ready and is eager to see how the young players perform.

“I am excited about this game because there are so many young players,” said the Coach. “It’s now a matter of how we can get them all on the field and get them in situations where they can compete.”

INJURY REPORT:

Here is the current status on all injured Jets players and their projected status for Friday’s game.

--S Jarrell Weaver (Groin): Participated in practice. Questionable for Friday.
--WR KenYon Rambo (Hamstring): Participated in practice. Out for Friday.
--WR Lawrence Hamilton (Hamstring): Day to day. Out for Friday.
--WR Santana Moss (Hamstring): Day to day. Out for Friday.
--LB Eric Barton (Hamstring): Day to day. Out for Friday.
--S Reggie Tongue (Calf): Day to day. Out for Friday.
--RB Derrick Ward (High Ankle Sprain): 1 week or more. Out for Friday.
--DE Kevin Fales (Knee): 1 week or more. Out for Friday.

The game will be shown locally at 8PM Friday on CBS TV Channel 2. The radio broadcast is on 1050 AM ESPN Radio. The next practice open to the fans is on Sunday at 3:30 PM. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com often for a game recap and all of the latest training camp news and reports.