The Jets’ reserves who will take the field for the “Backup Bowl” in the preseason finale on Thursday shouldn’t get too comfortable. Some regulars are inching closer to returning.
Of the injured players, Rex Ryan said that the biggest question mark for the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9 will be safety Eric Smith. Ryan is confident the others - Dustin Keller, David Harris, Yeremiah Bell, Jeff Cumberland – will be ready when the games start to count.
“My biggest concern would be Eric Smith,” Ryan said during his pre-practice press conference on Tuesday. “I think that’s probably the biggest concern, with his hip. But I feel good about Cumberland, David, Yeremiah Bell, Dustin with the hamstring. Unless something happens there, we don’t know right now, we feel pretty confident that all those guys will be able to play against Buffalo.”
Smith, a backup who had been featured in nickel packages and also played special teams, hasn’t played since suffering an MCL sprain and hip injury while making a tackle on a punt return in the preseason opener against Cincinnati.
“He’s fighting through it,” Ryan said of Smith. “We’ll see if he can go against Buffalo. All things considered, he might be our biggest question mark right now.”
The Jets, who are in jeopardy of becoming the first team since 1977 to not score a touchdown in the entire preseason, should also have a healthy receiving corps against Buffalo. Ryan also said he believes receivers Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens will be able to play in the opener, albeit in a limited role if need be.
Holmes, who had been battling back and rib injuries, and Kerley, who was suffering from a hamstring injury, played in their first preseason game on Sunday night. Schilens is yet to play in the preseason because of a high ankle sprain.
“I think all three will play in the opener,” Ryan said. “Schilens seems to be getting better every day. Obviously it was good to see [Holmes] out there and Jeremy. Jeremy did a nice job on the punt return. So he looks like he’s getting back. It’s just a matter of, they may be limited a little bit, but I think by the time we kick it off against Buffalo, both guys should be healthy….and Schilens as well.”
With Keller leaving Sunday’s game because of a hamstring injury, tight end/fullback Josh Baker being waived after suffering a season-ending ACL tear and Cumberland recovering from a concussion, Ryan said the team would “absolutely” consider bringing in another tight end.
“I think you’d always consider anything that can help our football team,” he said. “If we think there’s a player out there that we think can help our team, we’ll definitely consider it…Things pop up and when they do our guys prepare.”