It didn't always used to be like this. The Jets' fourth preseason game, that is.
As recently as the 2005 preseason finale at Philadelphia, the Jets' first units on offense and defense played one series each before retiring to the sideline for the night.
But tonight at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly, Jets coach Eric Mangini and Eagles boss Andy Reid —far from alone in the NFL in their approach to this game — are expected to again forgo putting players such as Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb, Kerry Rhodes and Brian Dawkins on the field at all, and the game will be fought long to the "twos" and the "threes" on both sides.
Guys like C.J. Mosley.
"What am I looking to get out of this game? The same thing you look to get out of every game," said Mosley, the Jets' fourth-year defensive tackle. "You go in there and make the plays that are there for you to make. You try to make as big a splash as possible."
Mosley's been splashing lately, and not just in the summer. He had his most productive stretch as a Jet with several big plays in the second half of last season.
But the late preseason is one of Mosley's biggest stages. We have to go only as far back as a year ago, also at Philadelphia for one of the finest drives any NFL D-tackle has ever experienced.
Mosley opened the Jets' second defensive series of that game by sacking the Eagles' A.J. Feeley on the first and second plays of the drive, forcing a fumble out of bounds on the second sack. The drive continued when Feeley converted a third-and-25, but it ended with Mosley sacking Feeley a third time and forcing a second fumble, this one recovered by LB David Bowens at the Jets 38.
"That was good, you know," Mosley reflected, "but that Philly game was last year, and this year is a lot different. So we've just got to wait and see what happens."
OK, so let's fast-forward back to last weekend's second half against the Giants, when he plowed up the middle and took down David Carr for a 6-yard sack — the fourth of eight the Jets defense had on the night.
"Yeah, It felt real good to have eight sacks in one game as a team," Mosley said, adding with a laugh, "We also had, like, 12 penalties, and I was a part of that, too."
True enough, right after the sack the ebullient Mosley jumped up and had a little celebration — too close to the fallen Carr, drawing a flag from referee Jerome Bogar for taunting, a point of reemphasis for league officials this season.
"On tape, it actually looked worse than what it felt like during the game — it looked bad," Mosley said. "All I can say is I didn't mean to do it. I didn't realize the quarterback was under me. I totally wasn't thinking about him. I talked to the ref and that's exactly what he said: 'You really didn't do anything, but it's just the fact that the quarterback was under you. It was nothing disrespectful."
Mosley, who apologized to Carr after it happened, went on to record two more solo tackles and force another fumble on an Ahmad Bradshaw run. Other than the flag, a good night's work.
Tonight the Jets defense will be trying to bottle up not Brian Westbrook but RBs such as Tony Hunt and Lorenzo Booker while getting after QBs Kevin Kolb and perhaps Feeley again. The Jets offense will be run by QBs Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and rookie Erik Ainge with an eye toward finalizing depth at wide receiver and on the line. The coverage units will need to be on their toes to hem in rookies DeSean Jackson, who had a punt-return TD, and Quintin Demps, who took a kickoff to the house, both at New England last week.
And in the days following the teams' eighth consecutive preseason finale, the Jets will need to 22 players to get down to Sunday's 53-man roster limit.
Yes, it's that time of year again, the calm before the storm. Mosley admits he's not a big fan of training camp and preseason games, even though he has had some big moments in them, but he grudgingly sees their purpose.
"Each of us has got to go out and practice every day for one purpose, to get better at one thing —and for me it was a lot of things," he said. "It is camp, but you've got to get better. So the more days, the more opportunities you get. That's how you've got to look at it."