Sam Darnold
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The New York Jets kickoff their 2018 preseason schedule at home against the Atlanta Falcons. Here are the top five things to watch.

While it’s not the regular season, it’ll do. The New York Jets will step on the turf of MetLife Stadium tonight to square off with the Atlanta Falcons and officially open their 2018 preseason campaign.

Speaking of 2018, this season has a much different feel than 2017 and it’s obvious to everyone inside (or outside) the Jets locker room. Now it’s time to see this team put their money where their mouth is.

Here are the top five things to watch out for in Friday’s preseason opener:

5. Shameless plug

To get things rolling, I spoke with Atlanta Falcons Team Reporter Kelsey Conway and she gave me all the juicy details on players to watch out for on the Falcons side, the quarterback rotation, and a Hard Knocks story about a player getting cut years ago and returning to the team to receive a fat extension this week.

4. Jeremy Bates new OC

The New York Jets have a familiar face running their offense in Jeremy Bates. But last season he was the quarterback’s coach. Now he gets to be the head honcho and run things his way or the highway.

What will this offense look like and how different will it be from what John Morton organized? That’s the big question on the minds of Jets fans everywhere. An underrated thing to consider is the effect that Rick Dennison will be running the offensive line.

He’s labeled as a “run game coordinator” which doesn’t sound as crazy as you’d initially think. What Dennison’s role will be is to make sure the run game isn’t forgotten in the game plan. This is important when you have a young quarterback under center (sooner rather than later). We’ll get the first taste of it tonight.

3. Who steps up and who steps out?

Impressing in training camp and practice is one thing. There’s a certain level of integrity that exists in making plays when no cameras or eyes are on the field. While on the other hand, making plays when everyone is watching, means just a little bit more.

In this first preseason game so many Jets players are going to have a chance to shine or collapse. The initial depth chart that was released by the team provides the media and fans a bit of insight into how some of these players are performing.

One of the top guys to watch is third-round pick Nathan Shepherd who will be starting opposite of Leonard Williams tonight. Fort Hays State isn’t exactly Alabama. How does he handle the increase in competition?

2. Teddy Bridgewater's comeback

Just missing the cut for No. 1 on this list is the Teddy Bridgewater story. While he has looked like a stud since spring, it’s time for the real test: live contact. That’s something he hasn’t really experienced in over two years — since his gruesome leg injury.

From sources within the team, it seems that Teddy will play much of the first half with Josh McCown potentially playing a series. Which means expect to see plenty of the young guys at quarterback which should provide us a nice sample size.

It seems like Teddy’s ceiling is getting traded to the highest bidder, the only way that Bridgewater is starting Week 1 for the Jets is if Darnold isn’t ready and that doesn’t seem likely at this current juncture.

1. Sam Darnold's debut

We all knew what No. 1 on this list was going to be. From all indicators, Sam Darnold is expected to have significant playing time in tonight’s preseason opener. My people within the Jets organization have suggested that Darnold will play the entire second half at least.

This is phenomenal on multiple fronts: he can catch up on the few days he missed, he can familiarize himself with this offense in live action, and Jets fans can get their first real look at their franchise quarterback under the lights.

My only tidbit of advice I would give is whether Darnold lights the world on fire tonight or looks awful, just remember it’s a long process and enjoy it. This is an exciting time as a Jets fan and you should enjoy it because as we saw last year, you can’t take any season for granted or have too many overreactions.

People call me Boy Green for my unwavering dedication to all things New York Jets. I work at The Score 1260 in Syracuse and I'm extremely passionate about sports. I aspire to continue my rise through the business and hopefully I'll end up working for the New York Jets in some capacity.