Rookie Eric Coleman will start against the Philadelphia Eagles and seems like the likely starter at strong safety when the regular season starts. While his play in the first two preseason games was nondescript, he played well in the win over the New York Giants with five tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble.
Reggie Tongue was signed to start at strong safety, but missed most of training camp with a calf injury. While Tongue is clearly the better coverage safety, Coleman is the more physical player, and looks like he will be an effective blitzer. And as we have seen in the preseason, blitzing will be a big part of the Jets defense this year. Since the Jets have an excellent coverage player starting at free safety in Jon McGraw, they probably want a more physical player at the other position. McGraw and Tongue are similar players, good cover guys who aren't built to be forces in run support. So a McGraw-Coleman starting tandem at safety would give them more diversity.
Jets coach Herman Edwards said he would make a decision on the starting strong safety next week . . .
Nickel back Ray Mickens will likely miss the opener due to a sprained knee, and the logical assumption is the Jets 2004 third round pick Derrick Strait would be the most likely player to take over. While Strait is the leading candidate to fill-in for Mickens, he's not a lock. The Jets love undrafted free agent cornerback Rod Bryant, and he has made more plays this summer than Strait. So he could be in the mix, however, he doesn't have a lot of experience playing the slot. A player who has been trained to play the slot is journeyman Omare Lowe, who was on the Jets practice squad most of last year. Mickens position in the slot is very difficult, and the cerebral Lowe, who is more experienced than Strait, has experience playing the spot in Miami. Another candidate is Andrew Davison, who the team signed early this summer after he was released by Dallas.
According to Lowe, he was asked to play the slot as a rookie in Miami, and felt it was a very difficult job for a newcomer to the NFL, but he says he thinks Strait is up to the challenge . . .
Edwards says he knows who the #2 quarterback is going to be for the opener, but isn't going to announce it until next week. Since Quincy Carter is new to the system, it would make sense for Brooks Bollinger to handle the primary backup role in Week One. Remember last year when the Jets signed veteran backup Jamie Martin after the Chad Pennington injury last summer, it took a while before Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett felt he was ready to be the #2 signal-caller, and by the time that happened, Pennington came back and Martin was waived. So actually last year, Bollinger was the primary backup for the first six games of the year because it took Martin a while to get comfortable. The Jets could handle Carter like they did Martin last summer, bring him along slowly . . . It will be interesting to see what the Jets do about the backup offensive tackle situation. Rookies Adrian Jones and Marko Cavka are projects, and Brent Smith hasn't taken a snap at offensive tackle all summer. It's quite possible the Jets will claim an offensive tackle off waivers. Smith says that even though he hasn't taken any reps this summer, he thinks he can get comfortable at offensive tackle very fast. Smith would be a valuable player to keep around since he can backup at every position on the offensive line except center.
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