The two biggest names of the Jets' offseason get their first taste of game action on Friday night, but we'll learn a lot more about Rex Ryan than we will about Mark Sanchez. While everyone is doubtlessly interested to see how Sanchez looks without a red practice jersey on his back, circumstances beyond his control will make it hard to get an accurate read on where he (or Kellen Clemens, for that matter) stands in the battle for the starting job.
Sanchez won't start, but he will play with the first-team offense, such as it is. The Jets will be without three-fifths of their offensive line at the Meadowlands, and making decisions under such conditions would be like reviewing a restaurant on a night when the stoves were off because of a problem with the gas.
That's how important Alan Faneca, Damien Woody and, especially, Nick Mangold are to the success of whichever man they are protecting from the frights of a live pass rush. Mangold is the biggest loss because he's responsible for both the snaps and for organizing the blocking schemes. Given that reality and their presumed desire not to see a quarterback sent to the hospital, the Jets will have to keep things simple and will cut down on the playbook as a result.
That's where learning about Ryan comes into play. He's made it clear that he wants to choose a quarterback before the third exhibition against the Giants, but the status of the offensive line should make Ryan back off on that proclamation. There's simply no way that he'll have enough evidence to make the wisest choice with one less game of full evaluation to use as part of the process. Ryan doesn't give off the impression of a guy who ever wants to slow down, which is admirable, but he can't let his wishes get in the way of his realities.
So, with the quarterback battle on pause, he should use the game for a way to evaluate other spots. Vernon Gholston as a starting outside linebacker, for example, or the scrums for playing time at wide receiver and backup tight end. Those positions will have a lot to do with the ultimate success of the starting quarterback, after all, even if they don't shine as brightly in the pregame hype machine.