One punch from former Jet Ikemefuna Enemkpali not only broke Geno Smith's jaw but also scrambled the quarterback situation irrevocably for the 2015 season. So Thursday night's final preseason game against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium hardly is meaningless because it's critical to determine the pecking order for the backup quarterback role behind new starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Coach Todd Bowles indicated earlier that Matt Flynn, who was signed Aug. 19 after being waived by the Patriots, and Josh Johnson, who was signed last week after being waived by the Bengals, will take the majority of snaps. Bryce Petty, a fourth-round draft pick out of Baylor, has shown what he can do and likely will be limited to a few snaps if he plays at all.
Flynn last played in a mop-up role with Green Bay last season before signing with New England, where hamstring and ankle injuries led to his being waived without playing. But he practiced fully this week.
"I feel like I've picked it up so far very well," Flynn said of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system. "There's a difference, though, in knowing it in the classroom and knowing it on the field. There's some cobwebs and rust that need to be knocked off. There's different nuances in this offense that I haven't had before in other offenses."
Johnson said he will lean heavily on the quarterbacks who are more familiar with Gailey's offense.
"You ask a lot of questions," Johnson said. "I mean, Ryan and Geno and Bryce worked through all this stuff in camp. I might have to ask them something and then go do it firsthand and feel it out from there."
Bowles might feel more comfortable with an eight-year veteran such as Flynn as the backup to Fitzpatrick until Smith returns, but the coach said Petty still is in the running. He has shown he can operate under center as well as in the spread offense he ran at Baylor.
"I've said all along that I feel I'm a pocket passer," Petty said.
Rather than feeling threatened by the additions of Flynn and Johnson, Petty hopes to benefit from working with them. "When they start talking about ball, it's fun to listen," Petty said. "Not that I don't know what's going on, but they've got a lot more knowledge and know what they're talking about. So for me, this is a pretty neat deal."
There is a lot at stake for the Jets' backup quarterback candidates against the Eagles, and the degree of difficulty is compounded by the fact that the majority of veteran starters will sit out the game.
"I've played in a lot of fourth preseason games," Flynn said. "It always seems like the fourth preseason game is the most fun just because a lot of guys are fighting for their lives out there. So I'm looking forward to it."