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3 things we learned from the Jets preseason opener

New York Jets nose tackle Leonard Williams (92) sacks Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

When it comes to making sweeping conclusions after one preseason game, don’t. And when the game was a 7-3 rock fight Saturday, that principle applies even more.

That being said, the New York Jets are going through a difficult rebuilding process, which means needing to evaluate just about every position. Some players look great in practice but wilt under the bright lights (even of preseason games). Others don’t practice well but show up on game day.

Todd Bowles knows his team won’t be competing for a Super Bowl title this year, but there were some things to be encouraged by after one exhibition game. For a team that might go 0-16 and at best looks like a 3-13 team, I tried to pick out three positives.

The negatives are obvious, myriad and painful for Jets fans. August is a time for optimism in the NFL, so with that in mind, here are three takeaways from Saturday night.

The Jets’ front will get after opposing quarterbacks

On the first series of the game, Marcus Mariota had to escape pressure on two plays and on a third met Leonard Williams for a sack.

Sheldon Richardson crushed Mariota after he released a throw to Delanie Walker that was ultimately called back.

And it wasn’t just the big names. Julian Stanford crushed Alex Tanney on a blitz where he came untouched. Bruce Carter couldn’t finish a sack where he came free on a blitz. Jordan Jenkins sacked Tanney literally with one hand. Josh Martin crushed Tanney on another sack.

In all, eight Jets took down Titans quarterbacks. The Jets have the horses to run Bowles’ pressure scheme that was the most aggressive and effective blitzing team in the league in Arizona.

The offense might be a mess (OK, it’s going to be a mess), but the defense should be difficult to block up front.

Christian Hackenberg might not be a complete disaster 

This is admittedly a low bar, but based on early reports from the Jets this year, it’s a little win.

He finished 18 of 25 for 127 yards, an unimpressive stat line from a sheer production standpoint, but he wasn’t wildly inaccurate and he didn’t throw the ball to the guys in the white jerseys. Right now, that’s success.

The second-year quarterback from Penn State threw a dart to Chris Harper on a slant for a first down. The next possession he made a subtle move in the pocket, stepped up and threw to Harper for a first down on third down.

New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws against the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Arm talent wasn’t a question for Hackenberg coming out and it was evident Saturday. He can drive throws all over the field; the next step will be to push the ball farther down the field. Most of what we saw was check downs or single-read throws, but for a preseason game, there were things to build on.

It’s too early to tell if Hack can be the Jets’ future starter. For now, it’s pretty clear Josh McCown will be the opening-day starter and that’s a good thing. But with a likely top-3 pick, the Jets need to know sooner rather than later if the potential is anything more than just that.

Robby Anderson will be one of the few bright spots on offense

The second-year player out of Temple showed his 4.3 speed on a beautiful over-the-shoulder 53-yard catch. Anderson added two more catches, finishing with 71 yards on the night.

He caught 42 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns last season and opens 2017 as the de facto No. 1 option for the Jets. If you’re looking for fantasy football sleepers, Anderson fits the bill. He’s going to get the lion’s share of targets on a team that will be behind regularly. If he goes from 78 targets to over 100, Anderson has to a chance to put up a 70/1,000/8 season.

Alone, he’s not going to carry this offense, but with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker gone and Quincy Enunwa out for the season, expect Anderson to be the man for this passing game.

Eventually, rookies Chad Hansen and Ardarius Stewart will be factors, but that evolution could be slow.

Anderson can be a big-play threat, which, at the very least will make him an exciting element in an otherwise unexciting season for the Jets.

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