EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Todd Bowles has already made the most important decision of the season for the Jets -- at least until he decides who his next quarterback will be. And at the moment, he's OK with going into the regular season with a starter who has thrown four passes all preseason long.
That's unconventional, to say the least. And who knows? Maybe Bowles will defy convention and risk playing McCown in the Jets' preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Whether he does or not, though, he's still got a bunch of other things he needs to figure out with this team before they head to Buffalo for opening day.
So here are five things worth watching as the Jets close out their preseason slate at the Meadowlands on Thursday night:
1. Will Bowles play McCown and the rest of his offensive starters?
His reasoning for not playing McCown much this summer makes theoretical sense -- that he's a proven commodity at 38 years old and in his 15th NFL season, so he likely doesn't need much actual game time to get ready. Except for one thing: He's on a brand new team, running a brand new offense, with linemen and running backs and receivers who've never worked with him before.
Shouldn't he get more than one series in a month to get his timing down?
In order to do that now, Bowles would have to do something almost no coach does nowadays -- play his starting quarterback and the rest of his first-teamers in the preseason finale. Is it worth the risk to get McCown a little bit more work against a likely second-team-heavy defense, considering that if he gets hurt neither of the other quarterbacks seem ready to step in? The Jets are in a tough spot and that's a tough call.
2. Who's No. 2?
For anyone reading the tea leaves of the weird way the Jets handled their quarterbacks this summer, it appeared that Christian Hackenberg was being given every opportunity to prove he was ready to be a starter. He didn't. So if he's not ready to start, what makes anyone think he's ready to step in in relief?
That's the question the Jets have to figure out. If Bryce Petty (knee) is healthy enough to play, he has looked like the more competent quarterback, but he's played mostly against third- and fourth-stringers. Maybe that's enough to convince Bowles to name Petty the primary backup. Regardless, this game is Hackenberg's last shot (at least for now) to prove it should be him.
3.The kick off goes down to the wire.
There haven't been many field goal opportunities in games for Ross Martin and Chandler Catanzaro, but Martin has been the better kicker in practice all summer long. It's close enough, though, that every kick matters. One bad miss in the preseason finale could turn the table for either of them. The Jets brought in Catanzaro as a veteran free agent, so he remains the favorite over Martin who has never kicked in an NFL game. But this could come down to the very last attempt.
4. Are the rookie receivers ready?
It had been a quiet summer for the Jets' rookie receivers until Saturday night when their third and fourth-round picks (ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen) finally flashed some of their potential.
Stewart caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns and Hansen had two catches for 45 yards, and both made toe-dragging grabs on the sidelines. Granted, it was in deep reserve duty. But they may have shown enough to get bumped up the thin depth chart on Thursday night.
Little is set in this receiving corps except that Robby Anderson is the defacto No. 1. Hansen and Stewart should get enough of an opportunity against the Eagles to show whether they're ready to be considered for Nos. 2 and 3.
5. Is sixth-round RB Elijah McGuire ready for more?
There was a real interesting report this week that the Jets have been shopping veteran running back Matt Forte. It makes sense, given his age and salary and their obvious rebuilding project. He's still likely to be difficult to trade, but just in case they can, McGuire has to be a big part of their Plan B. Yes, Bilal Powell would take over as the starter, but given his injury history, McGuire might end up filling a big role.
That makes tonight's running back rotation intriguing on several levels. Would they give Forte some extended action to showcase him a little more? Doubtful, considering everyone knows what he can do at this point and he proved last week that he's healthy. It's probably better to sit and preserve him. Powell shouldn't play much either.
So McGuire, the rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette, will likely get his most extended action of the summer. So far he has been unimpressive -- 13 carries for 30 yards and 3 catches for 30 yards (one was a 20-yarder). If he shows a little something against the Eagles, maybe the Jets will intensify their efforts to dump Forte.