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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Philadelphia Eagles

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Philadelphia Eagles

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets enter their preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles still needing to answer several questions about their roster. Of course, most of the discussion centers around quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, but neither of them will play in this game. We will have to wait and see which one Rex Ryan names the starter for the season opener.

What will be settled tonight, however, are the last few position battles. There are still openings at kicker, left guard and free safety, each with a varying degree of certainty as to who will be the starter. The players involved in those battles should all get a long look tonight as they attempt to show the coaching staff that they should be the ones to take the field in Week 1.

What will also be decided tonight are the final roster spots. The Jets are down to 75 players, and the final 22 cuts will be made Friday and Saturday. Some of these cuts are fairly straightforward, but some are going to be very difficult decisions.

For the players involved, a big game tonight is absolutely essential. The financial difference between being on the active roster and being on the practice squad is very significant, putting even more pressure on the players. Furthermore, for those that don’t make the Jets, a strong performance tonight could land them a job with another team.

This is the least important game of the preseason to the franchise and its fans, but the players on the field still have a lot to play for. It may not be as dramatic as earlier games, but there is still plenty of intrigue for tonight.

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Who Will Win the Kicking Competition?

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Nick Folk may have thought he was safe when the Jets cut Billy Cundiff, but they turned right around and signed Dan Carpenter to challenge for the kicking job. Folk has been solid this preseason, but he does not seem to have the support of the coaching staff.

Carpenter has a huge leg, and his career accuracy percentage is also significantly better than Folk’s. On track record alone, Carpenter would appear to be the favorite. However, the Jets have a certain comfort level with Folk, and he has been good for them over the last three years.

This battle is truly wide open, and a strong game tonight could win the job. If he can make a couple of kicks tonight, Carpenter should make the team. He is more accurate and has a stronger leg, and when you consider those two facts there is only one logical choice to make the team.

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Can Brian Winters Earn the LG Job?

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Rookie 3rd round pick Brian Winters made his debut last week after missing most of camp with an injury. With the release of Stephen Peterman, Valdimir Ducasse is now the projected starter at left guard. However, the team would like to see Winters prove he is ready, as he is the long term answer at the position.

Winters was solid in his debut, but he showed the inconsistency that is to be expected of a rookie in his first game. He will likely receive the vast majority of the snaps at left guard tonight, giving him ample opportunity to prove that he is ready to be a starter.

Ducasse has been very poor throughout his career, and the fact that the Jets appear willing to give him a starting job is one of the most mind-boggling decisions I’ve seen from a team that makes a lot of them. If he looks even close to ready, Winters should be the starter.

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Who Will Emerge as the Starting Free Safety?

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The free safety battle has taken several twists and turns throughout camp, with Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett trading the lead as Josh Bush is left behind. At the moment, Allen appears to be the slight favorite, and he could nail down the job tonight.

Both players have impressed in practice but failed to translate that play to game situations. Obviously, games are all that matters, so a really impressive performance from either player tonight should win the job.

However, if both continue their average play, Allen will get the start to open the season. This position battle will not be settled until one puts together several strong performances in a row. Don’t be surprised to see the Jets rotate free safeties all season.

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Will Matt Simms be No. 3 QB?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Simms will get the start at quarterback tonight, with Greg McElroy injured and Smith being held out. This is a huge opportunity for Simms, who has looked good in his previous appearances. He is in a close battle with McElroy for the No. 3 QB spot, and tonight will determine who wins the job.

The recently signed Graham Harrell is also in the mix, and he could actually win the spot with a really strong performance. This is rather unlikely, however. It will all come down to the performance of Simms, who will have to prove that his upside is more valuable than the reliability of McElroy.

With a strong game, Simms should make the team. However, a poor performance will likely send the team back to McElroy, who they know and trust as a backup. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Simms, and it is on him to seize it.

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Last Chance for Fringe Players to Impress

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Simms of course, is not the only player fighting for a roster spot. Cuts are coming over the next two days, and this is the last chance players have to prove themselves. Some, such as Ryan Spadola and Konrad Reuland, appear to have done enough. For others, however, the job is far from done.

The return of Jason Smith to the offensive line casts serious doubt on the futures of J.B. Shugarts and Oday Aboushi. Aboushi was the Jets’ 5th round pick, but he has been penalty prone and generally unimpressive. Shugarts was thought to have a good chance, but Smith’s return changes that.

Elsewhere, Mossis Madu is trying to steal a roster spot away from Khalil Bell at running back and appears to have a good chance. Damon Harrison, Leger Douzable and Tevita Finau are fighting for spots on the defensive line, while Ricky Sapp could use one more strong performance at linebacker. In the secondary, cornerbacks Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant and Mike Edwards are in a three way competition for two spots.

All of these battles will be settled tonight, and this game will be the final factor in determining who makes the team and who doesn’t.

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