FLORHAM PARK, NJ — How does one go about writing a preview for a football game that’s been, roughly, 200 days in the making? Where to even begin? In a game that will seemingly mean nothing, will mean everything to a Jets’ Nation group that has been in an aroused mourning since the final whistle blew on the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh last January.
Monday’s game in Houston may be over-hyped by few, but it will most definitely be over-analyzed. That’s just the recent life of a New York Jet — a big spotlight made by a bigger head coach who has the biggest aspirations for his team. So without further adieu, let’s move on from the word play and get on with the over-analyzing.
WHEN: Monday 8/15 @ 8 pm EST via ESPN
STADIUM: Reliant Stadium — Houston, TX (capacity: 71,500)
LAST MEETING: Jets 30 — Texans 27 @ Reliant Stadium on November 21, 2010
HEAD COACHES: Rex Ryan, Jets — third season, 20-12 regular season (4-2 postseason record); Gary Kubiak, Texans — sixth season, 37-43 regular season (0-0 postseason record).
- Antonio Cromartie, CB: He said it on the first day of camp: “I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder, this year. Just watch.” With the starters likely playing the full first quarter, at least for the Jets, don’t be surprised if Cromartie will hit the field amped up and ready to go. His skill set, regarded by many, gives him the potential to be the best in the league…yes, even better than Nnamdi Asomugha. It’s just a matter of keeping him mentally focused.
- Mo Wilkerson, DE & Kenrick Ellis, DT: These guys, with Wilkerson in particular, have been giving the keys to castle. Now all they have to do is prove they deserve to live in it. Wilkerson has looked very impressive through out training camp, while we’ll see if Ellis’ brute strength is enough to overpower a more skilled offensive lineman.
- Kyle Wilson, CB: The second-year corner is trying to bounce back from a rookie campaign that was filled with high expectations that were never reached. He showed flashes of brilliance, but the rocky road of an NFL rookie is what dominated his season. This year, however, he has showed up with a revamped sense of confidence and is preparing himself for a more concrete role in the defense — not having to worry about playing no. 2 without having Revis on the field.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Jeremy Kerley, WR/KR: The rookie out of TCU has been one of the shining stars at Jets training camp. Already becoming a fan favorite and earning praise from the likes of Mark Sanchez and Mike Westhoff, Kerley is the heir apparent to Brad Smith. You’ll see him running out of the slot — perhaps used like Wes Welker — returning kicks and punts and maybe even taking a few snaps out of the Wildcat Offense. Keep an eye on number 11, he’ll be a big factor in the regular season.
- Joe McKnight, RB: A whipping boy in his first year by the coaching staff and fans alike, McKnight exploded in the final game of the season — showing his potential as a change-of-pace back to Shonn Greene. He’ll likely be the shifty/speedy backup to LaDanian Tomlinson, who still is taking the first team reps. However I’m not completely sold on the endurance of the 30-something running back who seemingly disappeared down the stretch last year.
- Courtney Smith, WR: An undrafted free agent out of South Alabama, the Courtney Smith project is about 2-3 years in the making. However his physical attributes is reminiscent of Brandon Marshall at his best. At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds Smith runs a 4.66 40-yard dash and is a huge redzone target. Learning under 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress will only help this probable practice squad player make the most of his daunting physical attributes.
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