Matt Ryan, Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Jets leave New Jersey for the first, and only, time this preseason. Here’s what’s at stake when they take on the Atlanta Falcons. 

Geoff Magliocchetti

  • New York Jets (0-1)
  • Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
  • NFL, Preseason, Week 2, Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Thursday night could well be the Super Bowl for several members of the New York Jets.

To the naked eye, it’s only a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons (7:00 p.m., WCBS), but the elimination fo the cutdown to 75 men has placed bigger importance on the second portion of the exhibition quartet. For some, it could be their final opportunities to truly convince coaches they’re worthy of holding spots on an NFL roster.

Which groups are facing the most to look out for?

Back to Backs

Barring another surprise holdout, Le’Veon Bell is going to headline the Jets’ running back depth chart. Bell likely won’t play, so expect multi-faceted threat Ty Montgomery to get the primary opportunities on Thursday. Behind that top pairing, the Jets must use this final trio to answer their questions at the position.

The Jets are in a tough position on offense in the sense they must not only answer “who” will make the roster, but the question of “how many” they will retain at each position. Injuries forced a revolving door behind the quarterback, but spots are at a premium with the additions of Bell and Montgomery. Veteran competitors Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon struggled to move the ball, but each made memorable moves in other facets of the game. McGuire had six receptions, one of which was touchdown, while Cannon has thrown his name into the Andre Roberts replacement sweepstakes.

Another reason to watch the game’s second half could well be Valentine Holmes. The Australian rugby transplant isn’t eligible to hit the active roster, but tallied 30 yards on a trio of receptions late.

Building Blocks

Brian Winters avoided catastrophe, as last Friday’s medical tests after leaving the Giants tilt yielded no serious injury. That’ll make the Jets warier than ever about using their starters (don’t expect much Sam Darnold), as well as unsettle them about the lack of depth below the starting lineup.

It’s great to see that the Jets are (perhaps belatedly) trying to plug their blocking holes via late additions like Ryan Kalil and Alex Lewis. But that makes the situations of some of the blockers on this lineup all the more tenuous. The blockers failed their first test against the Giants, failing to clear the way for Jets rushers. Kalil and Lewis each began to practice this week, so it’s possible we could see them working with new teammates on Thursday.

Down In the Corner 

Jets injuries have taken one step forward and two steps back, much like their baseball counterparts in pinstripes. Unfortunately, Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela aren’t walking through the door.

The latest fill-in on the first-team cornerback group has been Arthur Maulet. The veteran has mostly been used on special teams and now must take over a larger role with Trumaine Johnson still working off his own issues. New York also brought in Marcus Cooper earlier this week, but the timing of his signing could prevent him from playing in Atlanta. An underrated name who stepped up last week was undrafted veteran Montrel Meander, who had two tackles and a sack in the second at MetLife.

Make it Really Special

The Jets’ special teams are in flux after sending two members to the Pro Bowl. Roberts and Jason Myers have since departed, cashing in on their first respective nominations. Less than a month away from Week 1, the Jets are still trying to fill the voids they left behind.

Cannon is currently engaged in a battle for the return spot with undrafted rookie Greg Dortch. The running back handled kick returns while Dortch took care of punts. The latter scored the Jets’ final touchdown of the night (through receiving) and preceded that with a 32-yard punt return. Further opportunities await in Atlanta.

Thursday will also mark the return of kicker Taylor Bertolet. The AAF alum was engaged in a competition with Cairo Santos last season, but both of them missed out on the job after the emergence of Myers. This will probably be Bertolet’s only shot to kick without veteran competition. Can he take advantage?

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