Like glaciers, Mount Rushmore and Twinkies, the NFL changes slowly. But it does change.
Take the Jets' fourth and final preseason game. Seemingly forever — but only since around 2002 or '03, when then-Eagles coach Andy Reid phoned then-Jets coach Herm Edwards with a proposal — the Jets and Eagles and every other team around the league have played virtually none of their projected starters against each other in their preseason finale.
That could change, at least for the early series, in tonight's latest Jets-Eagles summer finale, at MetLife Stadium (kickoff 7 p.m. ET).
For one thing, Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been playing not only his quarterback rotation but his entire lineup plans unusually close to the vest.
"There's a lot that goes into it. How many reps you're going to get, are you going to get reps with certain individuals and all that type of stuff," Ryan told reporters Tuesday. "We'll get you that information when we've had those discussions. So really I'm not ready to tell you that yet."
When was the last time Rex said, "I'm not ready to tell you that yet"?
The biggest call is what to do at QB. No one has been declared the winner of the preseason-long competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Now with Sanchez sidelined for this game with a shoulder injury, Smith still saying his ankle is not quite 100 percent although he's coming off his first pro start against the Giants, and Greg McElroy hobbled by a sore leg, how do Ryan and coordinator Marty Mornhinweg rotate their signalcallers?
Does Smith start? The rookie surely can use the reps in Mornhinweg's West Coast system. Yet by being in the running to be named the opening-day starter against the Buccaneers, he'd be starting a game he wouldn't have played in during the previous decade. If Smith starts, how long does he go? And would he get to play behind the first offensive line, the second line, or both?
Or will it be McElroy or Matt Simms taking the lion's share of the snaps, as they did in last year's loss at Philadelphia?
For another thing, Reid, one more unchanging element of pro football, changed his coaching colors to Chiefs red in the offseason. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia's new HC, has said he won't start his starter, Michael Vick, but he will have backup Nick Foles running his brand of no-huddle offense.
Will the Kelly green team want to have its first offense on the field to work on its new scheme a little more? Regardless of the answer to that question, will Ryan want to play his first defense against the Birds to get that unit a little more exposure to the hurryup that it will see from other opponents in the regular season? And if Geno starts behind his first offense, will Kelly counter with his first defense?
Suddenly, this game has almost as much intrigue as a regular-season affair.
Yet the NFL doesn't change quite that fast. At some point, either from the opening kickoff or after a series or two, the expectations are for the twos and threes to take MetLife's new UBU Speed Series S5-M turf and do their normal dance at this time of year. Both teams will be trying to determine which players will gain the last few spots on their 53-man rosters while keeping everyone as healthy as possible.
The one other Jets starting position that may violate this approach is the starting safety spot alongside Dawan Landry. That battle, too, hasn't been decided, so Jaiquawn Jarrett and Antonio Allen could split time providing the final video at that position.
As an added bonus for the Brooklyn-born Jarrett and Jets fans, he'll be getting his first chance to go against the Eagles, who drafted him in Round 2 in 2011, then released him after last season.
"I've still got friends over there," Jarrett said with a smile. "I'll speak to them after the game. But I won't be speaking to them until then. You don't have friends before or during the game."
Other Jets decisions: Who'll start at LG, Vlad Ducasse or rookie Brian Winters? Who'll kick, Nick Folk or newly signed Dan Carpenter? Which wideouts and which corners will grab roster spots behind the starters?
Then once this game is settled and in the books, the din of an approaching opening day on Sept. 8 and a new season will grow louder and louder with each passing day. Some things about the NFL never change.
|JETS-EAGLES RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Preseason Series Record||Jets 21-13|
|Last Game||Eagles 28-10, 2012|
|Last Game at MetLife||Eagles 24-14, 2011|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Eagles 9-0|
|Last Game||Eagles 45-19, 2011|
|Last Jets Home Game||Eagles 16-9, 2007|
|Postseason Series Record||0-0|
|Last Game||Never met|