No need to make any sweeping observations about a Jets preseason game featuring a first-year coach, a backup quarterback filling in for a punched-out starter and a defense still without its best lineman and using a vanilla game plan. So let's do this the right way and break it down into the kind of evaluations more reflective of the work-in-progress nature of this team.
Best sign of the night for the Jets: rookie defensive end Leonard Williams. With Mo Wilkerson still sitting out with a hamstring tweak, which may be irritating coach Todd Bowles for how long it's keeping him out of practice, Williams took several steps forward in last night's 30-22 victory over the Falcons at MetLife Stadium. He'll be seeing plenty of time in place of Sheldon Richardson, who will serve at least a four-game suspension (potentially longer because of his arrest in connection with a drag-racing incident in St. Louis last month). Williams had a sack for a safety on backup quarterback T.J. Yates in the second quarter.
"Even some of the players and coaches came up to me and mentioned it, as well," Williams said of the energy he created off his sack for the safety. "They were saying, 'Thanks for the fire.' "
Williams said he's learning to play with technique, using his hands more than simply relying on his brute strength. "In college, I got away with being bigger and faster than people," he said. "Now, everybody's big and fast and strong, so you really have to play with technique."
Man, this kid can play.
For those of you thinking that the Geno Smith knockout punch offered a silver lining of sorts because it meant Ryan Fitzpatrick would take over, consider this: After a lackluster preseason opener last week in Detroit, the 32-year-old journeyman wasn't much better in his second start. Fitzpatrick was 13-for-19 for 118 yards, but he had only four first downs in his first five possessions against the starters and seemed mostly content to settle for check-down passes.
"I think it was an up-and-down performance," Fitzpatrick said. "I feel like I missed a few reads. There's definitely some room to grow."
We'll note that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey won't show his hand in the preseason, but we're also under no illusions about Fitzpatrick's overall game. This will be Geno's team once he's ready to return.
The Jets' defense was not so hot for the second week in a row: They were victimized by a pass in the right flat to fullback Collin Mooney, who turned it into a 60-yard rumble to set up the first touchdown. A special-teams gaffe on a punt return by Devin Hester (OK, so we've seen plenty of gaffes on Hester returns over the years) gave Atlanta the ball at the Jets' 4 on the next drive, and Matt Ryan hit Leonard Hankerson for a 2-yard touchdown pass that badly fooled the Jets' secondary. Plenty of cleanup work to be done by Bowles and his megabucks secondary featuring Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine.
Some good work from wide receiver Brandon Marshall: His best play was catching a short pass from Fitzpatrick and turning it into a 30-yard gain.
Still not much action for veteran receiver Jeremy Kerley, as the Jets take a closer look at Quincy Enunwa: Kerley had two catches for 38 yards. Enunwa had one catch for 6 yards.
Kerley suffered a concussion in the first half, and his status is uncertain. Still think there's a place for Kerley. A very reliable receiver and excellent locker room leader.Bilal Powell had a nice run around left end that was called back on a holding penalty by Eric Decker. Powell flashed the kind of burst he had in 2013.
Want a more definitive read on the Jets ahead? It'll come next Saturday against the Giants, when the starters play into the third quarter.