Super bowls aside, the Redskins only play each AFC team once every three years, so preseason contests between the Redskins and Jets are generally pretty friendly affairs. This week’s joint practices started out as anything but friendly. One might call them... feisty.
After spending three days in camp together, the players from Gang Green and the good guys in burgundy and gold should know each other pretty well going into Thursday night’s preseason contest, but as fans, there’s probably not a lot of familiarity between the two teams.
I asked Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation to answer five questions in an effort to learn a bit more about the AFC East team that has been the guest of the Redskins all week in Richmond, and who will complete that visit tomorrow at FedEx Field in a game that starts at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Michael’s Twitter handle is @Michael_Nania, and (unlike me) he is a pretty active Tweeter:
checking the TL to see what's been going on at the Jets Redskins joint practice pic.twitter.com/6lRJSnMvc7— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) August 12, 2018
You can also learn more about the Jets and Gang Green Nation by using the Twitter handle, @GangGreenNation:
Vernon Davis is my pick to be the NFL player who makes the most people say, “I thought that guy retired three years ago,” of 2018.— Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation) August 12, 2018
1. The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat division champion since 2002. Even with the Eagles having just won the superbowl, you can find lots of people willing to make an argument that the Cowboys or Giants could win the division this season. How frustrating is it to be in the same division as the Patriots, and what keeps Jets fans going?
It is extremely frustrating. The Patriots have constructed a core pairing of coach and quarterback that has formed the nucleus of a guaranteed winner for well over a decade. It’s hard to keep your hopes up when there is a team in your division in the midst of perhaps the greatest era in football history, winning 12 games every single year. The Jets have only won 12 games once. The division has not been a legitimate target for this team in a while, and once again is likely unattainable this year.
So, it’s tough to keep our heads up, but this is the same team that came within one win of the Super Bowl back-to-back years out of Wild Card position. The Jets have a strange way of being just good enough to make you think they are consistently on the brink.
Times could be changing, though. Brady is into his 40s and turmoil seems to be boiling on the inside more than ever. The Jets finally have a potential franchise quarterback and a structured timeline centered around a young core. They could be peaking at just the right time.
If I were betting on this team right now, I would probably predict them to win 7 or 8 games, but the upside for them to win 9-10 is there if they can get a great rookie season out of Sam Darnold and see the necessary progression out of young defenders such as Jamal Adams and Darron Lee. However, it’s tough to bet on good production from a rookie, so my expectations are tempered a bit for 2018, but this team is competitive and on the rise.
The vibe surrounding the fanbase and organization is the most positive it has felt since 2011, when the Jets were coming off of back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances.
2. After a pair of 5-11 seasons, what does the future hold for Jets head coach and former Washington Redskins safety Todd Bowles? How do Jets fans feel about him?
Feelings are mixed. On one hand, Bowles has come in and completely changed the culture. He has, for the most part, cleaned up the circus that was in town before Rex Ryan left, and at this point has spearheaded the morph into the positive culture the Jets currently have.
On the other, Bowles, as you mentioned a former safety and a revered defensive assistant, has not done enough on the defensive side. We shall see what he does going forward with more talent and more experience for his draft selections, but the Jets have been poor on defense the last two years.
Can Bowles prove he can develop talent?
He has also has questions about his game management and lack of aggressiveness that irk a lot of fans.
3. Which Jets offensive player should Redskins fans be paying attention to on Thursday night if they want to have a “Wow!” moment?
Considering it is preseason, I will point to rookie running back Trenton Cannon. Cannon, whose speed lives up to his name, is a sixth round pick out of Division II Virginia State.
He’s lit up training camp, but struggled in Week 1 with two muffed punts. However, he still is a big play threat out of the backfield. He showcased very legitimate change-of-direction and burst against the Falcons last week. Keep an eye out for him to bust one.
4. Can you tell us about a defensive player that Redskin fans probably don’t know anything about who is likely to make the Jets roster and have an impact in 2018?
I’ll go with a third round selection in this year’s draft, defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd. Shepherd, a native of Canada, is a third-round pick out of Division II Fort Hays State (Kansas).
Already soon to be 25 and sporting size and athleticism that has earned him the nickname “Canadian Thanos,” Shepherd is currently listed on the depth chart as part of the first team. He looked great against the Falcons, demanding a lot of attention and eating up blockers for lunch to open things up for teammates. It’s a big leap for him from D2, but I think Shepherd’s age, size, and athleticism will all have him plenty ready to contribute from day one.
5. How have injuries affected the Jets so far? Are there any players who won’t be playing on Thursday night due to injury?
So far things have been mostly decent on the injury front. On Thursday night, three key offensive pieces will not suit up in left tackle Kelvin Beachum, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, and running back Elijah McGuire, but all three are expected to be ready for the season opener.
I want to thank Michael for taking the time to tell us more about his favorite team, and — as always — hope for a good game, free of injuries for both teams.