Mystery Lineups for Jets' Monday Night Preseason Game vs. Atlanta

Robert Saleh Feels Strongly Both Ways About Playing His Starters in the National Spotlight Against Falcons


Monday night's game between the Jets and Falcons is unusual in several respects.

For one, it's the final game of the NFL's second preseason week, a national Monday Night Football telecast by ESPN. It's the Jets' only national primetime game until their December Thursday game vs. Jacksonville, and it's their first home preseason primetime game since they and the Giants played the first football game in then named New Meadowlands Stadium in 2010.

For another, Jets fans, Falcons followers, the folks attending tonight's game at MetLife Stadium and ESPN viewers don't know for sure which Jets units will be taking the field for the first quarter shortly after the game's 8 p.m. ET opening kickoff.

The ones? Or the twos?

Green & White head coach Robert Saleh was ambivalent when he last spoke Saturday about who would play and who wouldn't. "I'm torn on it," he said.

On the one hand, he wanted to see his starters get some time on their home turf.

"I think there's tremendous value in this one," he said. "I think this one's different because it's Monday Night Football and we're such a young team that a lot of guys, this is what you dream of. You never want to make a game bigger than it needs to be, but there's still the human aspect in terms of they grew up and how people view Monday night and the fact that it's the only game on TV, all their peers are watching. And the biggest thing for me is it gives our guys that opportunity to go through the mental aspect of a heightened environment in something that they dream of so they can manage Week One."

See the Jets arriving at MetLife Stadium for the preseason Monday Night Football game against the Falcons.

Sounded like the coach was leaning toward giving his starters a series or two against Atlanta.

But then Saleh responded to another question with a different take on the subject, viewed through the prism of participating Friday and Saturday in joint practices with the Falcons.

"I'm torn with all of them, I am," he said of his starting units, "because we have two really good days of work. Normally with these joint practices, you don't want to practice or play in a game because you feel like you've gotten a heavy workload. I know we practiced last year and then we still played, it's like bloodshed this week, so far so good, as opposed to last year."

So, Coach, is it conceivable you'll go with your backups?

"Yeah, for sure."

At QB, then, will we see Joe Flacco stepping in for rehabbing Zach Wilson, or Mike White? C.J. Mosley at MLB or recently signed veteran Kwon Alexander? A few Jets front-liners who both hail from Georgia — edge Carl Lawson and TE C.J. Uzomah — or their backups?

It's an interesting question in this new "era" of the NFL's three-game preseason. When the second game on the preseason schedule and the next-to-last game of summer were two different games, starters played in both — multiple series in Game 2 and a half or even a little more in Game 3. Now those are the same game on the schedule, the middle contest of the threesome, and Saleh isn't the only NFL coach contemplating keeping his bigger names under wraps for the regular season ahead.

Tonight's suspense won't last long. But whichever way Saleh is leaning, regardless of who takes the field, he's got a definite plan for what he wants to see from his team in its first home game of the summer.

"We really want to get continued growth, especially from our young guys," he said. "We're trying to figure out who we have. And when you look at the 40-through-53 part of the roster and you're trying to figure all of that stuff out, we're looking for continued growth out of communication offensively and defensively, so you're just looking for growth in terms of the way we operate play in and play out."

Whatever Saleh's plan, it could serve as a "blueprint" for Sunday afternoon's preseason finale as the home team against the Giants. Then it's on to the season opener at home against the Ravens, when it's ones vs. ones, all hands on deck, and off the Green & White go.

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