The New York Jets will open their 2011 regular schedule season this Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be an emotional night as the game falls on the ten year anniversary of September 11th, and the team plans to honor the event appropriately.
There is no shortage of subplots surrounding the match-up. The Ryan brothers will be facing off, as Rex’s brother, Rob is now the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. Their father is delaying cancer surgery to watch the game. Outside of the Ryans, both rosters feature a healthy collection of big name players who provide plenty of star power to this game. Most notably, a high octane Dallas offense will face off against the Jets defense, which projects to be one of the league’s top units.
My initial impression is that I like this match-up for the Jets. There is going to be tremendous energy in the building and I think this is a game for them to set the tempo this year that they will be a difficult team to beat at home. The Cowboys feature plenty of names but were a 6-10 team last year and are an inferior football team to the Jets.
On offense, the Jets should be able to both run the football and attack down the field. The Cowboys starting corners, Terrence Newman and Michael Jenkins are both banged up. Newman has been out since August 4th with a groin injury. Jenkins has been dealing with a shoulder issue the past month. It remains to be seen if either will play, which could lead to substantial time for Orlando Scandrick and Bryan McCann. Beyond that, their safety duo of Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh are vulnerable in coverage, which could lead to a big day for Dustin Keller. It is imperative that Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Sanchez are aggressive early and often. This is the type of game Sanchez could throw for 250 yards or more. DeMarcus Ware is always a handful in the pass rush but the Jets have D’Brickashaw Ferguson on one side and will likely provide consistent help to Wayne Hunter if Ware is matched up on him.
On defense, Dallas has a very legit top three pass catching options in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. I would expect Darrelle Revis to see time on all three of them, but primarily on Austin. The Jets would be wise to roll safety help to Antonio Cromartie in the situations that he is singled up with Bryant. Witten is exactly the type of tight end who gave the Jets problems last year and it will be interesting to see if they have improved in the area of defending the tight end. Felix Jones is a home run threat at running back, so the Jets must keep contain and monitor him as a pass catching option out of the backfield.
Tony Romo is returning from injury after missing the bulk of last season and I am sure Rex Ryan will be throwing the kitchen sink of blitzes at him. While he has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket, the Jets should be able to force him into a few mistakes as he shakes off the rust.
The Jets are expecting to have all their starters and key reserves available for this game.