EAST RUTHERFORD N.J. - OTAs are overrated, apparently. Despite missing voluntary minicamps during the Spring, Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to not have missed a beat during his limited time on the field against the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night, completing three of four passes for 72 yards. It took some time for the rest of the team, but New York was able to shake off the rust, regroup, and battle through early struggles as they took down the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-13.
"It feels good. It's just knocking the rust off and continuing to practice and continuing to get better," said Jets tackle Ryan Clady.
After deferring the opening kickoff, the Jets defense took the field against Jacksonville's revamped offense that boasts former Jets running back Chris Ivory, Julius Thomas, and the dynamic Allen Robinson. For most of the first drive, Blake Bortles and T.J. Yeldon picked apart the Jets first-team unit causing missed tackles that led to positive yards. By the time Jacksonville reached the red zone, the Jets generated enough pressure from their defensive line, most notably a sack from Leonard Williams, to stall the drive and limit the Jaguars to a field goal.
"[There were some] missed tackles and explosive plays," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said when asked what can be improved on. "We have some work to do."
New York started their initial drive conservatively with short throws which ended in a Lachlan Edwards 29 yard punt. After a seven play, 86 yard drive that ended with a Chris Ivory rushing touchdown, Ryan Fitzpatrick responded with two consecutive deep passes to Quincy Enunwa for a total of 69 yards, setting up Bilal Powell in the red zone for a run up the middle for a touchdown. Powell showed poise and speed as he took advantage of the extra reps with Matt Forte (hamstring) sidelined.
"I thought we did ok, we didn't have a ton of plays, but we tried to go a little up-tempo," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "The second drive we got a couple of big plays from [Quincy Enunwa] and were able to get it in."
By the time the second quarter was in full effect, the Jets second-team defense settled in and clamped down against the run. Rontez Miles (four solo tackles), Jarvis Jenkins (two combined tackles), and Darron Lee (three solo tackles, one sack) showcased their speed and strength, limiting Jacksonville to just three points for the remainder of the first half despite allowing Jaguars backup quarterback Chad Henne to complete eight of nine passes for 94 yards.
After an ineffective drive for the Jaguars, Geno Smith took the field with the second-team offense. The unit struggled to get started and find any rhythm which prompted some boos from the crowd. But, all was forgiven and forgotten when Smith capitalized on a Jalin Marshall 84 yard kick return with a beautiful throw to Charone Peake for a 17 yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Smith finished the evening 8-14 for 78 yards and one touchdown.
A promising sign for the Jets was the lack of penalties committed. Last season, penalties crippled drives and cancelled out big plays on both sides of the ball. The two penalties for 20 yards in 60 minutes in the first preseason game showed the offense and defense were on the same page throughout, despite the early struggles.
"We got some first preseason stuff out of the way and avoided presnap penalties, which was big for us," said Fitzpatrick.
After practice on Tuesday, Bowles said he wanted his young players - who flashed signs of success during training camp - to perform under the lights and make the same impact. Bryce Petty (7-14, 93 yards), Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake (4-4, 45 yards, one touchdown), Jeremy Ross (3-4, 51 yards), and Dominique Williams (three carries for 17 yards), took that as a challenge as the four provided big plays on offense and special teams that ensured the victory.
Albeit the first preseason game, the Jets got their season on the right path as it took an entire team effort with plenty of smart decisions to defeat Jacksonville Thursday night.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email, (firstname.lastname@example.org).