EAST RUTHERFORD N.J. - The long wait is over. New York Jets football will officially kickoff in 2016, when the team goes head-to-head against the Jacksonville Jaguars on the MetLife Stadium turf Thursday night.
With roster spots in jeopardy and team roles still needing to be proven, you can expect solid efforts and breakout performances over the course of the game. Here is what you need to know and what you should keep an eye on:
WHEN: Thursday, August 11, 2016 7:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
1) Young Quarterback Showcase:
Through the first few weeks of training camp, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg have not had plenty of practices that opened eyes. While they have not had many reps during practice, you should expect a heavier workload for Petty and Hackenberg Thursday night. Both quarterbacks have had their share of struggles with accuracy and velocity on their throws including some poor decisions into coverage. If they expect to progress as an individual, they will need to make smarter choices that will force Todd Bowles and Chan Gailey to give them more opportunities. While they will most likely not receive first-team snaps during the preseason opener, the second quarter and second half will almost certainly be the showcase for these young quarterbacks.
2) Island Getaway:
Coming off offseason wrist surgery, it has been a challenge for Darrelle Revis to get back onto the practice field and workout with the team during 11-on-11s. With the heated battle of Revis against Brandon Marshall now in the past, this will be the cornerback's biggest chance to test the wrist and his athleticism against Jacksonville's Allen Robinson. This battle will not last throughout the game so keep an eye on Revis in the first few series against Robinson and Jacksonville's talented receivers.
3) Familiar Faces:
Thursday's preseason opener also marks the return of former Jets running back Chris Ivory. Ivory bolted to Jacksonville during free agency and now will be the Jaguars primary running back throughout the 2016 season. The matchup between Ivory and the Jets talented defensive line will be an interesting one as Todd Bowles admitted he would love to try to "steal a rep or two" for Muhammad Wilkerson who was activated off the PUP list on Tuesday. This will also be New York's first chance to establish how they will utilize Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, and Steve McLendon up front against a solid rushing and passing attack led by Blake Bortles. Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers were tight-lipped to the media during practice on how they would rotate the lineman in this game. Speaking of familiar faces, former Jets punter Ryan Quigley will be competing for the starting job against Brad Nortman in Jacksonville. Things are a little clearer for the Jets as Lachlan Edwards will be their starter on special teams.
4) Receiving Opportunities:
Regarding the electric wide receiver unit, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are the only guarantees as number one and two. After them, the competition is wide open for Quincy Enunwa, Kenbrell Thompkins, Kyle Williams, Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake, and Chandler Worthy. Preseason is a time for young receivers to break onto the scene and make impressions on the coaching staff. Todd Bowles sees that "they're all flashing [what they can do during practice], they just have to flash at the right time while the lights are on." Essentially, the coach wants to see his receivers develop consistency. Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake have been lighting up practice this past week, be sure to keep an eye on them in particular.
5) Team Building:
According to Todd Bowles, "everybody is scheduled to play. As a staff, we will sit down and see how many reps we want to give each of them." This is only the first preseason game. Starting Thursday night, the Jets will try to pick up where they left off in 2015. The team chemistry has never been higher. Be sure to look out for the special connections between Ryan Fitzpatrick and his receivers, Geno Smith and his second-teamers, and cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Juston Burris who have had very good training camps in the secondary.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (email@example.com).