It was a simple question, but it's one Jets head coach Todd Bowles answered differently his first two Augusts on the job, since he had a more veteran team both years than he does now:
What are you looking for in this year's second preseason game that you weren't in the opener?
"I'd like to see them just sharp on assignments, everybody getting on the same page, and some continuity, starting to jell on gameday," Bowles said ahead of Saturday night's game against the Lions in Detroit. "I'd like to see a little more effort out of certain guys on special teams that will show up, that are right on the bubble."
Here are this week's seven points to ponder ahead of the Jets' biennial (lately) summer visit to Ford Field:
1. Which Trend Will Prevail?If this is an odd-numbered year, the Jets are in line for a loss at the Lions. They opened the '13 and '15 preseasons there and suffered 26-17 and 23-3 defeats, with the latter dropping the Jets' summer record at Detroit to 0-3. Yet if a conflicting preseason trend means anything, the Jets will get the road win. Ever since 2011, the Green & White have streaked through their summer skeds — 2 straight wins followed by 6 straight losses, 5 wins, 3 losses, 4 wins, 3 losses. Thus last Saturday's 7-3 win over Tennessee needs a companion W.
2. Hack ReportThis could be a big night for Christian Hackenberg, whenever he comes in. Jets fans want to see him get off his point-less schneid — after engineering a TD and FG in his first two drives as a pro last summer, his preseason offenses have gone 24 consecutive series without a score (eight vs. the Titans). But he was also 7-for-9 on third-down passing vs. the Titans and has shown his bigger arm, pocket maneuverability and confidence this month. "He took care of the ball," OC John Morton said. "I thought he was accurate. I thought he did a really nice job."
3. Matt Loves NYJMatt Stafford seems to enjoy playing the Green & White. Mixing those proverbial apples and oranges, he's started four games vs. the Jets (two RS, two PS), the Lions have won the last three, and in the four games combined he's thrown 5 TD passes to no INTs and has a 107.7 passer rating. His backups are Jake Rudock and 21-year-old sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya. If Kaaya looks familiar in the game, he's not only been getting great tutoring from the Lions' 29-year-old starter but four years ago he was playing "Madden" as Stafford.
Top Historical Photos Between Matchups Between the Two Franchises
4. First Line of DefenseThe Jets' first D-line had only one of last week's eight sacks and yielded 27 yards on five carries. Nevertheless, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the Muhammad Wilkerson-Sheldon Richardson-Leonard Williams unit has his attention. "It'll be a great test for us because they're a talented bunch up front and they do some things where they line up and they isolate you. ... They have some guys that can rush the passer and they're very good against the run, so it'll be a great test for us." As in let's keep the pocket clean for "The Franchise," guys.
5. Secondary vs. Detroit's WRsThe Jets defenders get no trophies for their 10 PDs vs. the Titans. On the other hand, it's a positive step for a secondary that last broke up 10 passes in a preseason game in 2013 and last regular season unofficially had an NFL-low 54 PDs. Now come the Lions, with Stafford throwing to rookie Kenny Golladay, who caught two TDs in the Lions' opener vs. the Colts, and vets Marvin Jones (4 TD catches @ CIN in '13) and Golden Tate (TD catch and TD pass @ SEA in '12), who've burned the Jets before. It's time for the Green & White to giddyup.
6. Catching Up with Old FriendsThe Jets have four players who once played for the Lions: QB Josh McCown (of course — hasn't he played for every NFL team now?) and LBs Julian Stanford, Freddie Bishop and Corey Lemonier. The Lions have two ex-Jets on their roster but the Jets might see neither. One is the bearded LB and special-teams ace Nick Bellore, who left for the 49ers in 2015. The other is DL Kerry Hyder, who was on the Jets' 2014 practice squad. But Hyder (Lions-high 8 sacks in '16) is gone for the year with an Achilles injury and Bellore had been sidelined with a camp ding.
7. Special(s) NightThe Jets special teams will be worth keeping an eye, and not just because the HC said so. Coordinator Brant Boyer called the kicking competition between vet Chandler Catanzaro and first-year man Ross Martin "a dogfight." Both kicking indoors in this game might determine whether there'll be a flip in the depth chart to Martin-Catanzaro or not. And in the return game after Lucky Whitehead's foot injury, could the kick and/or punt man be Frankie Hammond? Romar Morris? Marcus Murphy? Maybe even Chris Harper? It's up for grabs.