EAST RUTHERFORD — Is there a better way to conclude the NFL preseason slate than with the New York Jets and New York Giants facing off with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback expected to get snaps to boot?
Saturday night will conclude the 2023 preseason for Gang Green and Big Blue with a chance for both teams to end the meaningless game slate on a high note. Both organizations come into the new year with heightened expectations and both have received an influx of talent over the last few years as they shrug off the last decade of futility.
So who should fans keep an eye on at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night? We have the five biggest names to watch for the Jets and Giants here.
For the first time since being traded to the Jets, and taking a significant pay cut, Aaron Rodgers will take his first set of game snaps at MetLife Stadium. Don’t expect to see the four-time NFL MVP for long on Saturday, but New York has a reason to be excited to see him on the field. He’s been a great leader and player throughout camp and should be prime for a big season.
The Giants are very pleased with their third-round rookie wide receiver. Hyatt has been a problem for most defenses with his speed and his route-running has been greatly improved. New York may not have a lot of room for him on the 2023 roster, but a strong game on Saturday could be the stepping stone for Hyatt to receive a starting role when the Giants open up against Dallas.
Speaking of impressive rookies, Will McDonald has quickly turned questions about his college tape around in record time. McDonald has been consistently winning on the edge all preseason and has a couple of sacks in games to boot. If he’s able to play well against the Giants’ backup offensive line (or even the starters) it will be incredibly hard for the Jets to sit him to start the season in a key Monday Night matchup against Buffalo.
Tre Hawkins III
If there was a defensive player who “won” training camp for the Giants it was Tre Hawkins. The late-round cornerback has consistently shined through the last month and is on track to receive some solid minutes in his rookie season. He may not go up against him, but playing Garrett Wilson tonight should be a treat for the young buck.
For the first time all preseason, Mekhi Becton will start a football game at right tackle for the New York Jets. Becton has looked excellent throughout August and has earned his spot on the starting lineup. He’s been a very consistent run blocker and improved in the pass. If there was one knock on Becton it’s that he struggles against quick edge rushers: something the Giants have plenty of. Saturday night is a good test for the former first-round pick.
Pinnock has been a revelation for the Giants and a major “what-if” for the Jets. Pinnock was picked up by Big Blue after the Jets cut him before the season and is now set to start at safety. His play throughout the preseason has been excellent and has diminished fears of the Giants secondary: a major weakness in the 2022 roster. New York’s defense is expected to be much improved this year and a big reason for that is Pinnock. Luckily for the Jets, they have an undrafted free-agent safety of their playing well, but this will be a move that will always tie the two teams together.
The Jets are pretty set at linebacker but Zaire Barnes has shown the ability to be a quality backup this season. The expectation is that the late-round rookie will play a lot on Saturday and for good reason: he continues to get better with every snap. Expect a big day from the Western Michigan product.
The Giants’ starters?
We’re not entirely sure if the Giants will play their starting offense and key members of the defense. We may not know until kickoff. That being said, with all the success the group has had this preseason, playing against a top defense like the Jets could go a long way in showing that the flashes are not just for show. Daboll may want to sit his guys today for good reason, but there’s a chance we see just how good this offense can be.
If Rodgers is going to play on Saturday, then there is a great chance that his top target will also get snaps. Wilson and Rodgers have looked very strong throughout training camp and could be in line for a big season. Saturday will be the first chance for fans of the Jets to see them on the field together.
Big Blue’s defense could look a lot different this year with the acquisition of Isaiah Simmons just 48 hours ago. Simmons may be seen as a bust in Arizona, but he was once touted as the most athletic defensive prospect coming out of Clemson. If there’s anyone who can get the most out of him, it’s Wink Martindale’s “position-less” system. He may not play Saturday, but if he does, don’t expect it to be for long.