Todd Bowles kept as tight a lid on his quarterback plans for tonight's preseason opener as is possible in this age of instant information. But not surprisingly, the Jets head coach sent his QBs out in the predominant rotation they've been used in during the first two weeks of training camp.
And based on the scoreboard alone, one was greater than two plus three in this one. Josh McCown led a preseason-opening drive to a touchdown— "That's how I envisioned it going," said McCown — but neither Christian Hackenberg nor Bryce Petty mounted a scoring drive from there. Yet the defense pressured hard all evening and the Jets came away with a baseball-like 7-3 victory over the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's preseason opener:
1. Wow, McCown
McCown made the start, for his 10th NFL team in the last 13 years. And if he wants the Jets starting job, he made quite the statement with his only drive of the night. On his second throw in green and white, he went for the home run and almost got it, completing an over-the-shoulder 53-yarder to Robby Anderson to the Titans 2. Three plays later, he rifled a 4-yard scoring strike to Charone Peake. Eight plays, 78 yards, 3:52.
It was the Jets' first touchdown on their preseason-opening drive since 2003, when Chad Pennington led a long drive to a TD vs. the Buccaneers in Tokyo for that summer's Japan Bowl. Pennington was at MetLife watching the start of tonight's game.
And on the drive, McCown completed three of four passes for 72 yards and the TD, all for a passer rating of 156.2. As many are saying right now, it's early. Bowles also was not overly impressed. "It was good to see," he said of the first series. "We just have to keep building."
2. Leo and the D
Leonard Williams, perhaps remembering one of his first pro sacks as a rookie in the 2015 regular season, of fellow rookie Marcus Mariota at MetLife, got after MM again on the defense's fourth play of the night. Leo looped around the Tennessee right side and dropped Mariota for a 7-yard loss that led to a punt on the visitors' first series.
Mariota, in his first game action since breaking his fibula late last season, came out in the second quarter, backup Alex Tanney came in — and on Tanney's first play, Jets LB Julian Stanford came free and put a lick on Tanney for a sack that sent him temporarily from the game. Then Tanney returned and Bruce Carter got a second-chance sack. And Josh Martin got a nice hit on a double twist, forcing a Tanney incompletion late in the half.
Thre'e sacks and lots of pressure led the way to a fine Jets defensive first half: 97 yards, five first downs and no points allowed.
3. Hack's Turn
After McCown's one series, Hackenberg took the offensive reins through the most of the third quarter. He looked sharp in the short and intermediate throws he was asked to make, completing 11 of 15 for 70 yards at the half and 18 of 25 for 127 yards on the night.
With a bottled-up running game and some dropped passes, Hack wasn't able to lead a scoring drive in his eight series. The closest he got was to the Titans 37, from where Chandler Catanzaro attempted a 55-yard field goal. His try faded just left.
Best Gameday Images from the First Game of the Preseason
4. Petty Wraps It Up
Petty came in with 1:01 left in the third quarter and finished up. He also couldn't generate much offense as his six drives resulted in five punts, four of them three-and-outs. His passing numbers: 2-of-6 for 16 yards. The good part for both Petty and Hack: Neither threw an interception. But Hackenberg lost a fumble on a mishandled center snap from Jonotthan Harrison. "It was a miscommunication," Hackenberg explained.
5. And More D in the 2nd Half
The Jets' second and third "D" continued the pressure on Tanney in the final 30 minutes. LBs Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin took the QB down with one-armed sacks sandwiched around recently signed DL Devon Still's sack.
And when the visitors hit some big plays and moved near the red zone twice in the final period, the reserves came up big with two takeaways. The first was an INT by a safety not named Adams or Maye — it was a one-hander by Ronald Martin at the goal line. The second came on a strip sack by Anthony Johnson — the Jets' seventh sack of the game — that was recovered by J.Martin.