Realistic expectations for Jets' Bryce Petty: Growing pains, then progress

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- This is what you wanted, right?

After weeks of noise and anticipation, the New York Jets are ready to unveil “Project Petty,” a four-week audition that represents the latest chapter in their ever-compelling quarterback saga.

On Sunday, Bryce Petty makes his second career start -- his first as the No. 1 quarterback -- when the downtrodden Jets (3-9) meet the really downtrodden San Francisco 49ers (1-11) at Levi’s Stadium.

A piece of advice: Don’t get your hopes up over these next few weeks.

Petty is stepping into a challenging situation. His inexperience (91 regular-season snaps), coupled with a depleted and ineffective supporting cast, will make it extremely difficult to accomplish his ultimate goal: to claim the 2017 starting job.

“I think we all realize there will be some bumps in the road,” offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said, “but we expect the best.”

You have to like Petty’s moxie, and his work ethic has teammates buzzing. Those intangibles will help him, but this isn’t Dak Prescott taking over the Dallas Cowboys.

Petty didn’t have a full training camp with the starters; he has had only one full week -- actually, a short week. He doesn’t have Ezekiel Elliott or the NFL’s best offensive line to protect him. In fact, he will play behind a line missing three starters. The offense has generated only 33 points in the past three games, so it’s not as though he’s being handed the keys to a Ferrari.

One hopes Gailey will let him play without training wheels, which wasn’t the case Nov. 13 against the Los Angeles Rams. The best way to evaluate Petty -- that’s the goal here, right? -- is to let him play the position with no restrictions. He’ll face the worst defense in the league, which helps. The Jets won't judge Petty on one game; they will be looking for progress over the final four weeks, especially with his decision-making and ability to read coverages.

“My goal since I’ve been here is to be the starter for the New York Jets,” Petty said.

You’re up, kid.

Five thoughts on the game:

1. Referendum on Todd Bowles: This game will tell us a lot about the coach’s hold on the locker room. The Jets were pitiful in their 41-10 loss Monday to the Indianapolis Colts, prompting Bowles to question the team’s effort -- dangerous territory. A coach can alienate his players by criticizing effort, which might explain why he backtracked the following day. In his revised assessment, Bowles said they played with heart, but not their head. Another non-competitive loss will speak volumes. The last time the Jets were blown out in back-to-back games (21 points or more) was 2012.

2. Will Sheldon show? Sheldon Richardson pulled the defensive version of a Blutarsky against the Colts -- zero tackles -- and spent nearly the entire second half on the bench. The coaches called it a “game plan” decision. Whatever. It’ll be interesting to see how much Richardson plays and how well he plays. His replacement Monday, Deon Simon, did some nice things in a 3-4 front with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson.

3. Youth is served: Bowles said he’s planning to increase the playing time of certain young players. It’s not as though the roster is stocked with them, but figure Simon, linebacker Josh Martin and kick returner Nick Marshall will see more time than usual. Wide receiver Devin Smith, one year removed from major knee surgery, is expected to make his 2016 debut.

4. Niners are really bad, but ...: First-year coach Chip Kelly won his opener but hasn’t won since, an 11-game losing streak. His defense ranks at the bottom in many statistical categories and his offense has been held under 25 points in 10 consecutive games. The 49ers' leading receiver is Jeremy Kerley (43 catches), whom the Jets didn’t think was good enough. Kerley, who doesn’t think he was treated fairly in New York, will be looking for payback. The Jets’ nightmare scenario: Kerley beats Darrelle Revis for the winning touchdown. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is coming off a bad game, but he actually played well for a stretch before that. His running ability will cause major problems for the Jets.

5. (Don’t) go West, young men: The Jets haven’t won a game on the West Coast since Jan. 24, 2010, their playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers. Since then, they’re 0-4. This is a tough spot for them, considering the short week and the cross-country travel. Don’t be surprised if they drop their fifth straight.