NFL Wire News

Bowles likes progress Jets are showing


The Sports Xchange

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. –The “dress rehearsal” went pretty well for the New York Jets on Saturday night. Now they wait 15 days to see if it translates into the real thing.

The Jets beat the New York Giants, 28-18, in the annual “Snoopy Bowl” at MetLife Stadium. It was a doubly victorious day for the Jets, who suffered no serious injuries while watching their first-team clearly outplay the Giants’ first-team.

“I just felt like we made progress,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “Our goal is to make progress each week. We try to get better at something. We tried to start faster, we started faster.”

The Jets raced out to a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 9-for-14 and tossed touchdowns to wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Zac Stacy, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who returned an Eli Manning interception 59 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the second quarter.

The Jets scored just 19 first-half points combined in their first two preseason games against the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.

The big first half Saturday provided optimism for the Jets, who are relying on Fitzpatrick and Cromartie to lead a team that has been overhauled on both sides of the ball. Fitzpatrick was supposed to only back up Geno Smith, but the Jets would love nothing more than for Fitzpatrick to put a stranglehold on the job while Smith recovers from the broken jaw he suffered during a locker-room fight with former teammate IK Enemkpali.

“We still have a lot of work to do and I think we all know that in this locker room,” Fitzpatrick said. “And we know that we’re continuing to get better each week. The preparation is going to pick up from here and now it becomes serious.”

Cromartie, meanwhile, is expected to team up with Darrelle Revis to lead a reunited, revitalized secondary. In a potential sign of things to come, Cromartie and Revis, who played with the Jets from 2010 through 2012, rejoined the team as free agents last spring.

Revis limited the Giants’ second-year wide receiver star, Odell Beckham Jr., to just five catches for 31 yards. Cromartie also quieted talk that he might be declining by picking off a Manning pass intended for wide receiver James Jones and going untouched into the end zone.

“He read it; he’s been playing a long time, you know,” Bowles said in his typical understated fashion.

Bowles has been in the NFL long enough to know that only so much can be gleaned from the dress rehearsal. But winning and having a good feeling heading into the Sept. 13 season opener against the Cleveland Browns sure beats the alternative.

“We knew it was going to be a process, we understand the process,” Bowles said. “It’s good to win while you’re learning that process. But we’ve got a ways to go.”

–The “dress rehearsal” is over, but the Jets still don’t have a punt returner.

With wide receiver Jeremy Kerley sidelined due to a concussion, head coach Todd Bowles experimented with wide receivers Eric Decker and Walter Powell on punt return duties against the Giants on Saturday night.

Powell, who returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown, had a far better evening than Decker, who was instructed by Bowles to call fair catch every time. But Decker returned one punt for no yards, misread another one and muffed yet another return.

“Kerley’s out and the other guys aren’t really kick returners and Decker was the only one we wanted,” Bowles said.

But that Bowles would use Decker — the Jets’ No. 2 receiver — as a punt returner speaks to the lack of options he has at his disposal now that Kerley is clearly in the doghouse with Bowles.

“I’m not giving nobody anything; I don’t care who it is,” Bowles told Newsday when asked about Kerley. “He’s one of those people that’s in a dogfight to earn his spot.”

Kerley’s versatility — he was the Jets’ top slot receiver as well as the punt returner — allowed ex-head coach Rex Ryan to maximize the 53-man roster. The uncertainty regarding his status could open the door for Powell, who had little to no chance of winning the final wide receiver spot.

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