With a little more than two weeks until the regular-season opener and the starting quarterback job still open, all eyes will be on rookie QB Geno Smith during Saturday’s Jets-Giants game.
The play of the Jets’ second-round pick in his first preseason start is one obvious area to watch on Saturday night, but fans of both clubs know there’s much more to keep an eye on as the Jets and Giants ramp up for the games that count.
Here are three other key story lines for each club entering Saturday night:
How will rookie right tackle Justin Pugh play in his first preseason start?
With David Diehl out for the start of the season with thumb surgery, Pugh rates a solid chance of being the starting right tackle to begin the regular seasons. The Giants’ first-round pick flashed some potential in his preseason debut vs. Indianapolis on Sunday, with his ability to move was one positive. However, Colts outside linebacker Caesar Rayford beat him for a sack. Pugh will get a tough test from Jets left defensive Muhammad Wilkerson on Saturday night.
Can the Giants’ running game get much going against a tough Jets’ run defense?
The Giants’ rushing attack hasn’t shown much in the preseason. Now, it draws a Jets defense that has allowed just 3.2 yards per carry in the first two games. It will be interesting to see if the Giants can get anything going on middle rushes against the Jets, who are allowing just 2.0 yards per rush up the gut through two preseason games. The play of Giants center Jim Cordle bears watching. He replaces David Baas, who will miss Saturday’s game with an MCL sprain.
How will cornerback Corey Webster fare in his return to game action?
After missing two years worth of games with right ACL injuries, Thomas is slated to play vs. the Jets on Saturday night. If Thomas can recapture some of his best early-career form and get some much-deserved injury luck, he could bolster the Giants’ secondary depth. He is only 28 years old.
Will the pass defense bounce back after a shaky performance against Jacksonville?
The Jets’ defense did not fare well against the Jaguars’ top passing-game players last week -- and Jacksonville didn’t even have receiver Cecil Shorts III, one of its top playmakers. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has been panned far more than praised in his brief NFL career, completed 13-of-16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of action vs. the Jets.
Ideally, Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner would play extended minutes on Saturday night after struggling against Jacksonville, but he’s dealing with a calf injury. Milliner looked to be feeling his way against the Jaguars; getting up to NFL speed is a must for the first-rounder out of Alabama.
How will running back Chris Ivory build off his preseason debut?
Ivory’s stat line vs. the Jaguars (six carries, 13 yards) left a little to be desired. However, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. On his longest rush, Ivory finished out an eight-yard gain with excellent power. Ivory’s physicality should be an asset to a Jets offense whose success will be tied to the effectiveness of its running game. Watch how he runs and the way he’s used more than worry about the stats right now.
Can newly signed wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi show enough to make the roster?
In four seasons in Cleveland, Massaquoi showed some field-stretching ability, gaining 14.8 yards per catch. That’s the good news. The bad news is he did not last long in his first season with the Jaguars, who let him go after their preseason game vs. the Jets last Saturday. Massaquoi would figure to see some snaps later in Saturday’s game vs. the Giants -- the Jets need to see what they have in him with roster cuts coming next week. At 26, and now with his second team of the summer, Massaquoi is trying to stick in the league. He’s landed with a club in need of wide receiver help, but he has but a short time to make a good impression.