In the Jets' first preseason game against the Giants, fans were treated to the fresh digs and amenities of New Meadowlands Stadium and to the team's Ring of Honor ceremony. Tonight the Jets will visit the Carolina Panthers and the coaching staff will get its next chance to evaluate the 80-man roster to determine who can "play like a Jet."
Jets head coach Rex Ryan said his starters will most likely play just the first quarter of this game, after playing the first half against the Giants. Either way, starting quarterback Mark Sanchez is eager to get back out on the playing field.
"I'll play as long as they want," Sanchez said. "I love getting in there, love getting comfortable again. It's just a matter of feeling good."
Here are five areas the Jets and their fans will be paying attention to at Bank of America Stadium:
CBs Kyle Wilson and Dwight Lowery
The talk of training camp has been the absence of Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis, and during his time away from the team, Wilson has had the opportunity to get reps with the starters. The first-round rookie from Piscataway, N.J., out of Boise State has been impressive in the eyes of Ryan and secondary coach Dennis Thurman.
"I'm just acting like the ball is coming at me every play," Wilson said. "Every time I'm out there I have something to prove."
Also with much to demonstrate is Lowery. The third-year man made an impressive pass deflection on Thursday against Braylon Edwards. Lowery is aware he'll be watched tonight but is ready to prove his doubters wrong.
"When you play cornerback, you're in the spotlight no matter who you are," he said. "That's kind of how you have to approach that situation. Anytime you line up as a cornerback, no matter what team you're on, you have the spotlight on you. Every time there's a pass play you're probably going to get some action. You just have to be prepared to play the game."
LG Matt Slauson
The much anticipated battle for the starting left guard position is led by Slauson, the second-year man and Nebraska product who is in his fifth season in Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan's system after Callahan as the Nebraska head coach recruited him to play for the Cornhuskers. Slauson and rookie UMass product Vladimir Ducasse are still dueling it out for the job that opened after Alan Faneca was released in the offseason.
"Every opportunity I get," Slauson said, "I'm just going to grab a hold of it and I'm just never going to let go. I had a good start against the Giants. Now I need to keep on building, I need to get better. I can't go out and play the same game. Now I have to improve."
DE Vernon Gholston:
Gholston, the sixth pick of the 2008 draft, will be on most fans' radars. Featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" and praised by Ryan in recent weeks, Gholston looks to make an impact after being moved from outside linebacker to his natural end position. The former Ohio State standout has taken a calm and mature approach to preseason games like the one this week.
"You look forward to these opportunities to line up against an opponent," Gholston said, "but there's also that learning mentality and the road that you have to take. It's kind of like a glorified ... I don't want to say practice, but in so many ways it is. You take everything you learn from a different opponent and put it towards the big gameday."
RB Joe McKnight
Last year's three-headed running back has been dismantled and reorganized. Gone is workhorse Thomas Jones and injured playmaker Leon Washington. Stepping into the fold to join Shonn Greene are future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and McKnight, the rookie out of Southern Cal. McKnight looks to play an important role as a versatile, shifty threat as Washington had been for the Jets. There are other aspects besides speed and agility on which McKnight knows he must focus.
"Just be more physical," McKnight said. "In the last game, I wasn't patient enough. I just have to hit the holes and attack the defense. That's where you get most of your yards from."
S Brodney Pool
With the addition of Tomlinson, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes and LB Jason Taylor, the forgotten acquisition for this Jets team is Pool, the starting safety. The sixth-year man out of Oklahoma totaled 275 tackles, four sacks and 11 interceptions during his time as a Cleveland Brown, where Ryan's twin brother, Rob, is the defensive coordinator.
Although Pool is a quiet man who hasn't received much attention, he figures to be an important facet of the defense that was the best in the NFL last season.
"I know what I bring to the table," Pool said. "These guys brought me in here for a reason and that's because I can play football. I'm going to go in there and do my best and keep playing."