Jets fans are obviously keeping nervous eyes trained on RB Le'Veon Bell, who won't play this preseason, C Ryan Kalil, who could finally get some live game reps Saturday against New Orleans, and CB Trumaine Johnson, who will be trying to get his hamstring ready to go roll for opening day vs. Buffalo.
But one area of the Jets that has quietly come together despite the usual nicks and knacks of a football training camp is the offensive line.
"I know it's an old saying, 'Next man up,' but that's just what it is," Kalil said after getting reps at Sunday night's Green & White practice at MetLife Stadium. "Luckily, though, I think there's some good depth here and the guys that have come in have done a good job of responding. And I think the guys that are banged up are going to be fine come Week 1. I'm excited to get those guys back out there and I'm excited for this group."
How many were excited to see how Sam Darnold and the offense performed Thursday at Atlanta behind an OL that had only two starters in place from last year — LT Kelvin Beachum and C Jonotthan Harrison — and only one in Beachum who's expected to be in the starting unit for the Bills?
Yet with a left-to-right lineup of Beachum, Alex Lewis for Kelechi Osemele (pectoral) at LG, Harrison for Kalil, Tom Compton for Brian Winters (shoulder) at RG, and rookie Chuma Edoga for Brandon Shell (knee) at RT, the group held up well against Atlanta's first defense.
Darnold led a first-drive touchdown for the second straight game, and in his three series and 16 plays with his makeshift starting line, the Jets mounted 86 yards of offense with six first downs. The only sack he suffered was a 4-yard takedown by fifth-year LB Vic Beasley on a veteran inside move past Edoga.
Head coach Adam Gase is optimistic on his injured players, and he sounded bullish on how his guards, the seventh-year man Compton and the third-year man Lewis, stepped into the Falcons fray.
"KO looks like he's going to start bugging me about going out to practice this week," Gase said Sunday. "But as of right now, I don't really have plans for those guys playing [vs. the Saints]. I really like how the two guys that filled in for them played this last game. I think Alex needs more reps. He was kind of on a pitch count because he really hasn't had a ton of practice and both of those guys did a great job in the game."
Edoga has drawn praise this camp for his work from, among others, Darnold, his Southern Cal teammate. And Harrison continues to fill in ably while Kalil was getting his new verbiage down and his feet back under him from his short retirement.
Anything can happen when final cuts start to be made Aug. 30 after the final preseason game, and there's no telling how the new guys will perform when September gets here, but at this break in the action midway through the summer schedule, it appears the Jets starting OL can be counted on, with health, to keep the potentially high-powered offense moving along and that, with adverse health, each position has a good backup option.
But for the start of the season, Gase isn't thinking the line will need options and their rhythm will return as soon as Winters and Osemele step back into the action.
"I think we'll be all right," Gase said. "I think when you have guys, especially our two guards, that have played as long as they have, these guys do a great job of just being on it mentally. At the end of the day, those two guys are our enforcers. I'll call stuff that will get them downhill and go scare some people."