The first signs painted in enemy colors indicating where head coach Rex Ryan's fifth New York Jets team and general manager John Idzik's first are headed in 2013 will come with preseason contests against four foes that, like the Green & White, were not playoff teams in 2012.
The Jets were notified today by the NFL of their opponents for the upcoming preseason, three of which will be playing in the Green & White's MetLife Stadium home:
Week 1 — at Detroit Lions
Week 2 — vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 — at New York Giants
Week 4 — vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The NFL schedules the first two opponents for all the league's teams, and this year that means two infrequent summer opponents move onto the Jets' radar for the first two weeks of August in the Lions and Jaguars. The final two weeks match the Jets against their long-time summer rivals in familiar slots, the Giants "on the road" in the MetLife Bowl and the Eagles at home.
Here's a little more on all four opponents, along with the range of dates where each game will be played. Dates and times will be firmed up later.
Detroit, Ford Field (Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 8-11)
The Jets and Lions have battled only five times in the summer. The first meeting came in 1968 — the Jets' last preseason game, a 9-6 win actually played at Cleveland Stadium as part of a charity doubleheader, before they began their push toward Super Bowl III. The other games came in 1971, 1994 and 2005.
Over the years the Jets have played the Giants in the preseason 43 times, the Eagles 34 times, the Lions four times and the Jaguars not even once.
This will be the fourth consecutive game against the Lions to open a preseason schedule and their fourth preseason away game against the Lions. It's also just their third visit to Ford Field, coming after regular-season victories in 2002 (31-14) and '10 (23-20 in overtime).
Detroit will be lyin' in wait with a shiny new roster — the Lions have 13 returning starters from a year ago, tied for fifth-most in the NFL, and one of their new starters for their preseason debut is likely to be RB Reggie Bush, whom the Jets played three times in the previous two seasons when he was the Dolphins' tailback. And two of their returnees, of course, are the combo of QB Matt Stafford to WR Calvin Johnson — Megatron set the NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards a year ago.
Jacksonville, MetLife Stadium (Thursday-Monday, Aug. 15-19)
The Jets have played the Jaguars 10 times since their birth in 1995, seven times in the Meadowlands, and once at MetLife Stadium, a 32-3 romp in Week 2 of the 2011 season. The Green & White also prevailed in Jacksonville last year by 17-10. But the teams have never met before in the preseason.
These opponents have a lot in common. Both are working their way back from disappointing '12 seasons. Both took a conservative approach to free agency — the Jags' big signings so far have been of LB Geno Hayes and RB Justin Forsett. Under new head coach Gus Bradley, the theme is "a truly open competition for all 53 spots on the roster," a theme similar to Idzik's and Ryan's "competition through and through" on the Jets.
And both sides expect QB competitions. It should be an interesting game for Jets QB David Garrard. In '09 he was the Jacksonville QB who combined with RB Maurice Jones-Drew to lead a 24-22 comeback over the Jets in the old Meadowlands venue. For this game he is expected to continue his competition with Mark Sanchez to become the Jets starter against his old team, which may or may not be able to sign Jones-Drew to a restructured deal.
Giants, MetLife Stadium (Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 22-25)
After one year as the Jets' second preseason opponent, the Giants are back batting in that familiar No. 3 slot — in 27 of the last 31 of their annual preseason meetings, the teams have squared off in the Meadowlands in the next-to-last game of their respective summers.
Unlike their infrequent regular-season rivalry, where Big Blue has held sway, the Jets have done well against their three-decades-long stadium mates in the preseason. They lost last year's game as the home team, 26-3, but had won 13 of the previous 16 preseason games and for some reason have won seven of their last eight when the Giants have been the home team. And the Jets lead, 23-20-1, in the series that has been revived every year since the first meeting, the historic 37-14 Jets romp at the Yale Bowl on Aug. 17, 1969.
The Giants will have a different look than in recent years, what with the departures of Osi Umenyiora, Ahmad Bradshaw and Chase Blackburn. And they wouldn't mind seeing Victor Cruz, No. 80 in your program but No. 99 in Jets fans' broken hearts, depart as a restricted free agent. The Jets may also get to see two of their former footmen perform for the Giants in P Steve Weatherford and K Josh Brown, who dueled Nick Folk for the K job last offseason and preseason.
Eagles, MetLife Stadium (Thursday, Aug. 29, time TBD)
As with the Giants, the Jets and Eagles have a long summer tradition. The two green teams will be ending their preseasons against each other for the 13th straight year. And before the Birds prevailed in the two most recent preseason finales, the Jets had won nine in a row.
Philly has a number of dangerous offensive players still on its roster in RB LeSean McCoy, WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and TE Brent Celek, not to mention Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Trent Edwards at QB. All are familiar to Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg, the Birds coordinator from 2006-12. All are likely to play little if at all in the tradition of this final summer tuneup to the teams' regular-season openers.
But change is eternal in the NFL and so it is with the Eagles. Their new head coach is Chip Kelly. And the back end of their defense has been completely made over with the signings of four unrestricted FAs in safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips and CBs Cary Williams from the Super Bowl champion Ravens and Bradley Fletcher.