2008 Preseason Week 2 - Jets vs Redskins Photos
Tonight the Jets will play arguably the most hyped second preseason game in franchise history. Perhaps it could be considered the most noteworthy summer game since the 1969 Jets, defending Super Bowl champions, took on the Giants in New Haven, Conn.
And all because one man will be wearing No. 4 in Green & White for the first time.
"I understand there's going to be a level of excitement, which is great," said head coach Eric Mangini, who will hand the ball for the first time before a game to Brett Favre as his starting quarterback when the Jets play host to the Redskins tonight. "It's great to have that, and that's prep for the regular season. Sometimes you look out in the stands and tumbleweeds. It would be nice to have that energy level."
No tumbleweeds will be seen nor crickets heard in the Meadowlands for this one. A larger than usual crowd is expected to see Favre throw his first passes, other than at his first seven practices since arriving from Green Bay, as a member of the Jets. For those out of the area who won't be able to watch it on WCBS-TV in New York, they can check out NFL Network's simulcast of the game.
Favre, who missed very few Packers preseason games — and no regular- or postseason games — in the previous 16 seasons, said coming out of the tunnel wearing a green and white uniform rather than green and gold threads will be two things: "different" and "fun."
"As this thing gets rolling, the newness wears off and it gets down to playing," Favre said this week, making his strongest statement yet about growing more comfortable with his new surroundings. "I'll keep saying this: I'm here for one reason and that's to help this team win. No other reason. People can say what they want. Yeah, there were discussions before I came here about going elsewhere and all that stuff. I am happy to be here, I really am."
Excitement and Energy
And his Jets teammates, not to mention Jets Nation, seem genuinely happy to have him.
"You can't shy away from that — there's going to be a big crowd out there," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "The excitement that is being created around Brett coming to us is giving us a lot of energy throughout camp. So it'll be fun come Saturday."
Of course, the fans in the stands can say they were here for Favre's first game, but they're not going to see much. Mangini, while not etching any numbers in stone, said his new/old starting QB will probably play anywhere from eight to 12 plays — one long first-quarter drive or two shorter possessions — before he takes off his helmet for the night.
There are no guarantees that Favre will electrify the crowd with passes similar to the 75-yard touchdown connection he made with Cotchery or the 53-yard scoring strike to Brad Smith in recent practices. Consider that in his 16 preseason debuts for the Packers since 1992, he's thrown only three TDs (to two INTs) and has a 56 percent completion rate and a 73.1 passer rating. And he had those schemes down cold.
But Jim Zorn, Washington's rookie head coach, said he's still wary of Favre, even despite the quick exposure and his still limited knowledge of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's playbook.
"If we let down at all, he could still throw the ball — and the plays that he does know, he'll know how to execute them," said Zorn. "He's only going to be in there for a bit, so the fun, the festive-like atmosphere will be over very quickly. I'm getting ready for a game, and our players have to do the same."
Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has noticed the new QB in town, but he's not expecting attention to be diverted from the job he and his unit need to do.
"You obviously can't be unaware that Brett Favre is there. You'd be insane to say that," Sutton said with a laugh. "But what you're looking at every day doesn't change. We'd be fine just going along and working below the radar. That'd be fine with us anyway. We have some things that we really have to improve."
"This is a preseason game," Mangini echoed, "and what I'm expecting is for us to improve from our last preseason game."
Test for the Rushing Defense
One obvious area is the first defense's effectiveness. The group gave up 85 yards on 16 plays over two possessions at Cleveland last Thursday night before LB Eric Barton ended the Browns' second drive.
And the Jets' front seven should find out how its proficiency against the run is coming along. Remember that last November the 'Skins ran for 296 yards in their 23-20 overtime win over the Jets at the Meadowlands.
Clinton Portis, who burst for 196 of those yards, will not play tonight, but without Portis, veteran Ladell Betts and first-year back Marcus Mason have led a Washington ground attack that has averaged 156.5 yards a game and 5.0 per carry in its two preseason wins.
Sutton and his defensive coaches will also want to continue to scrutinize the battle for the starting right cornerback spot, the depth at linebacker and top draft pick Vernon Gholston's development.
And offensively, there is so much more than Favre to get up to speed: the running game led by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, the protection for all the quarterbacks (Kellen Clemens is expected to take over from Favre in the second quarter), rookie TE Dustin Keller, and the backup battles along the line, at WR and in the backfield.
It is a chance for the Jets and their fans to observe, for the first time at home, all the pieces to the puzzle brought to the team by owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coached up by Mangini and his staff. But the 7-to-8 p.m. hour will be reserved most often for Favre.
"Most of the things we're running are plays that he's run before," Schottenheimer said. "I'm very proud of him. He's done a really, really good job with something that's not easy."
The easy part tonight will be figuring out that this game is not your usual Jets preseason home opener.