ATLANTA — A few of the Jets’ problem areas looked exactly like that — problematic — Thursday night in their preseason matchup with the Falcons. While a few others actually looked OK in a 22-10 Jets win.
If you are general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Adam Gase, the depth at cornerback and the search for a kicker has to cause some sleepless nights with the regular season just three weeks away.
Cornerback has been a focal point all offseason, after former GM Mike Maccagnan did nothing to upgrade the position in free agency or the draft. Then, starting corner Trumaine Johnson injured his hamstring in training camp. That was followed by his backup Kyron Brown, an undrafted free agent, also suffering a hamstring injury.
With those two out against the Falcons, Arthur Maulet started opposite Darryl Roberts and Falcons cornerback Matt Ryan took advantage. He targeted Maulet on a 27-yard pass to Calvin Ridley then threw Maulet’s direction way again on an 11-yard completion.
Falcons receivers continually gained separation from Jets cornerbacks, but they struggled to catch the ball — which kept the statistics from getting out of control. Atlanta receivers dropped two touchdown passes when they were wide open.
“I don’t know if I’m concerned,” Gase said of the cornerbacks. “I think we’re just working through competition. We still have two more weeks of preseason left. We’re going to kind of see who really steps up. There’s a lot of opportunity for guys. It’s wide open. There’s a chance for guys to make the roster.”
The good news on the defensive side of the ball was the Jets put a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan, and the starting defense did not allow any points. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams blitzed a lot for a preseason game, and the Jets sacked Ryan three times. Jamal Adams, Brandon Copeland and Avery Williamson all got to him.
There have been questions about how the Jets would generate a pass rush without a stud edge rusher, but Williams’ crew looked good Thursday.
“We’re just trying to give these guys an opportunity to make plays,” Gase said. “I think it’s good when he does that and these guys have to communicate and have to make adjustments.”
Sam Darnold and the starting offense played three series, scoring a touchdown on their first possession for the second straight week. The second-year quarterback completed five of seven passes for 46 yards. The first drive was highlighted by a 15-yard pass to Quincy Enunwa and a 21-yard back-shoulder throw to Robby Anderson.
The Jets marched down the field, going 66 yards on eight plays, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Ty Montgomery. Starting running back Le’Veon Bell did not play again, as the Jets remain cautious with him after he sat out last season. That left a lot of work for Montgomery, who gained 36 yards on seven carries and scored the touchdown.
“I think starting fast is something we want to get really good at,” Darnold said. “We have been the last two weeks in the preseason.”
The Jets were without four starting offensive linemen. The surprise was right tackle Brandon Shell being out of the lineup. Shell was in uniform, but the team announced he had a right knee injury suffered in warm-ups.
The depth on the offensive line has been another area of concern, but the second-teamers were not that bad. Jonotthan Harrison started at center with Tom Compton (right guard), Alex Lewis (left guard) and rookie Chuma Edoga (right tackle) also getting starts. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was the only regular in there. Edoga was beaten by Vic Beasley for a sack, and the Falcons pressured Darnold on a few other occasions, but it was not that bad.
The other major concern remains the kicker. Taylor Bertolet missed two extra points. Bertolet signed with the Jets on Sunday after Chandler Catanzaro surprisingly retired the day after he missed two extra points against the Giants last week. While Bertolet missed the two point-after tries, he did make one in the fourth quarter and hit a 49-yard third-quarter field goal.
Cornerback and kicker remain major areas of concern, and Douglas is going to have to pursue every possible option to upgrade them.