It's been 222 days since the New York Jets last played a football game. Since then, they've had a star player quit on the team in the final quarter of the season, anonymous players rip their starting quarterback in the media, and oh yeah, acquired the most popular and polarizing player in the entire league, Tim Tebow. And on Friday night, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Company will finally play an actual football game, and while it's just preseason and doesn't count for squat, it's about darn time.
Contained in those 222 days has been the Jets' 2012 training camp, which was highlighted mostly by Tebow taking off his shirt to run around in a downpour, and two big in-team brawls that forced Ryan to have the team run sprints, a la high school. The circus is in full swing, and now it hits the road as the Jets open up their 2012 Preseason with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals.
Five Things To Watch For
1. Tim Tebow - Preseason football is never all that intriguing to watch, but if there's one team in the NFL that will be a riveting study during the exhibition season, it's the Jets. And reason number one is Mr. Tebow, the most popular backup quarterback in the history of football. On Friday, there's a good chance that not only will Tebow run the Jets' second unit from behind center, but it wouldn't be surprising for him to get a snap or two with the first teamers in the Wildcat formation. While it could prove to be a totally silly move, the Jets didn't get Tebow to sit him; he's going to get snaps, so the Jets might as well get him started against a live defense now.
[Related: Complete Jets Training Camp Coverage]
2. The Wide Receivers - Santonio Holmes will likely sit out with a rib injury, leaving the Jets perilously thin at the receiver position. Stephen Hill and Patrick Turner will likely start, and many eyes will be on the rookie Hill. The Jets are hoping he's the number two receiver behind Holmes, and Friday is our first chance to see what he's got against an NFL defense. Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley have been banged up in camp so far, which will lead to some reps for a few guys hoping to make the team - Jordan White and Dexter Jackson.
3. Austin Howard - Who? The guy who might actually challenge Wayne Hunter, a.k.a The Revolving Door, for the starting right tackle job.
4. Sanchez-Sparano - Even though the Jets' offensive starters will likely get just one series, it will be interesting to see just how the Jets offense looks uner new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. There were times last year - well, okay for the entire year - the Jets' offense didn't really resemble an NFL offense. Part of that was Sanchez's inconsistency, and part of it certainly fell on former coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Will the Jets' one series simply look different? Will the Jets try a downfield pass, something they didn't do ALL of last year?
5. Pass Rush - Rookie Quinton Coples will garner a lot of attention in the preseason as the Jets look to see if they've finally found someone who can get to the quarterback with some consistency from the defensive line. Has a major weakness been solved? Perhaps Friday gives us a bit of a glimpse into what Coples is, and if second year defensive end Mo Wilkerson has taken a step up.
Game Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
TV: WCBS/NFL Network (Watch Online)
Sirius: Channel 137
Radio: ESPN Radio NY (98.7 FM)