NFL New York Jets

New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Jacksonville Jaguars

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The New York Jets had mixed results in their first preseason game, and they head into tonight’s contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars still needing to answer quite a few questions about their football team. The team named Mark Sanchez the starting quarterback for this game once again, and all eyes will be on the quarterback competition.

The second preseason game is a very important one for most of the position battles on the team, and the Jets will look to have the majority of their depth chart settled heading into the third preseason contest. This could also be the last chance for end-of-the-roster players to prove their worth.

The Jets will be looking to improve their offensive performance, and the debut of running back Chris Ivory should help. The offensive line struggled last week against the Detroit Lions and they will look for a bounce back game. The passing game remains a work in progress, so any improvement in that department will be considered a positive.

Defensively, the team seems to be settling in. The pass rush looked better against the Lions than it did most of last season, and the Jets will look to build on that performance. The team is still working on solidifying the secondary, and Jaiquawn Jarrett will get the start at free safety.

The coaching staff is still in the process of learning about and evaluating new players. The starters will not likely see much action tonight, as the staff wants as many reps as possible to go to the players who are competing for roster spots.

At this stage of the preseason, the battles for the final roster spots intensify, and after this game we will have a better idea of who might make the team and who will be cut.

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Can Offensive Line Improve Run Blocking?

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The offensive line was probably the biggest disappointment of the first preseason game. Veteran guards Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman were not impressive, as Colon dealt with penalties and Peterman was simply ineffective.

As a team, the Jets ran the ball 16 times for 37 yards, good for an enigmatic 2.7 YPA. Needless to say, that is completely unacceptable, and they will be very focused on trying to improve the rushing attack.

Rookie Brian Winters is out with an ankle injury, so the burden again falls on Colon and Peterman. They must improve or the Jets will have a major problem. There is no need to push the panic button after one bad game, but if the line has another poor performance, then there will be some serious cause for concern.

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Time for Stephen Hill to Step Up

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Coaches, teammates and media all agree that Stephen Hill has been one of the most improved players in training camp this season. He has become a much better route runner and seems to have rid himself of the bad case of the drops he suffered from last season.

However, practice doesn’t mean anything if you can’t back it up in the game. Hill managed only two catches for 16 yards against Detroit, and he never looked like a serious down-field threat. The Jets need get him more targets, and he needs to find a way to get himself open more frequently.

The Jets are counting on a big season from Hill, and they would love to see a strong performance from him tonight. Everyone involved with Jets organization wants Hill to emerge as the No. 1 receiver for the team this season, and a big game tonight would be a great start.

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Jaiquawn Jarrett's Big Opportunity

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Former second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett has impressed in training camp, and he backed that up by leading the team in tackles against the Lions. Rex Ryan has raved about Jarrett to the media over the past week, and Jarrett will be the starter at free safety tonight.

Jarrett and Dawan Landry both have similar styles of play, as both are physical safeties who excel against the run. It will be interesting to see how the Jets use them in coverage, and who draws more man-to-man assignments on opposing tight ends.

A strong performance will lock down the starting job for Jarrett. This is a huge opportunity for him after being a draft bust for the Philadelphia Eagles. Expect him to come out and be a noticeable presence and earn himself a starting position.

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The Debut of Chris Ivory

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The Jets traded a fourth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints to acquire Ivory, and they believe that he can be their workhorse running back. He has dealt with a hamstring issue for most of camp, but he looked good in practice this week and will get the start tonight.

There was some talk that Ivory could lose carries to Bilal Powell if he continued to miss time, but Powell was thoroughly unimpressive against the Lions. Ivory will be expected to bring the run game to life, and his bruising style should help an offensive line that struggled in run blocking last week.

The Jets need to have a strong run game in order to take the pressure off of their quarterbacks. Ivory will likely not see a ton of work tonight, as the Jets will proceed with caution. However, the staff will want to see production out of whatever workload he gets, and tonight is Ivory’s first chance to show the Jets that they made a good investment.

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Will Mark Sanchez End the QB Battle?

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Mark Sanchez was again named the starter at quarterback, and all he needs is a competent performance to lock down the starting job for Week 1. Horrible opening interception aside, Sanchez looked to be the more comfortable, confident and effective quarterback against Detroit.

There is a chance Geno Smith won’t play because of his sprained ankle, but if he truly wants to start this season, then he will tough it out. Smith did not impress in his first game, and he struggled in practice this week. He needs an absolutely monster performance to extend the quarterback competition.

In the end, though, by far the most likely outcome is that Sanchez wins the job. This is not exactly what Jets fans want to hear, but Sanchez has been the better player. If the two quarterbacks perform at any comparable level against the Jags, expect Sanchez to be named the opening day starter early next week.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google