For this week’s edition of New York Jets Fact Or False, we will begin a trend that will be prevalent all season long. Each week, F or F will be dedicated to the upcoming Jets game, as we will look at the most pressing issues facing Gang Green each week. For our initial take, let’s have a look at what to expect to see, as well as what to watch for, in tomorrow night’s game in Cincinnati.
AJ Green vs. Darrelle Revis will be the most intriguing matchup of the game. Fact.
AJ Green had a stellar rookie season last year, joining with Quarterback Andy Dalton to form the first ever rookie QB/WR tandem to make the Pro Bowl. Green hauled in 65 passes for 1,057 yards and 7 Touchdowns last season, while facing some excellent defenses along the way. However, this will be his first career matchup with Revis, and not to disrespect any other players, he has never quite faced a talent like this in his entire playing career. Revis is a completely different animal, but Green certainly has immense talent. Rest assured both of these players cannot wait to face each other, not only for the challenge, but for the opportunity to assert their dominance. Revis would undoubtedly like to strand yet another receiver on Revis Island, while Green would love to be one of the very few to get off. Although they will get limited reps against one another, expect each of those reps to provide the best matchup on the field tomorrow night.
Andy Dalton will outperform Mark Sanchez. False.
Although Dalton had a very solid rookie campaign last season, his numbers were average at best when facing defenses ranked in the top ten in the NFL. Against those opponents, Dalton completed 175 of 311 passes for 1,954 yards, 11 Touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a completion percentage of 56.27 and a passer rating of 77.28. These numbers certainly are not terrible, especially for a rookie, but Dalton clearly struggled to protect the football. While he has already faced the stellar defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each, he has yet to come up against a Cornerback tandem with the combined talent of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson. Factor in what should be improved Safety play, and Dalton could get overwhelmed quickly. He will certainly get his completions, however don’t expect him to outshine Sanchez. Sanchez is coming into this game with an extreme sense of confidence in relation to his knowledge of the new offensive system, and you’d have to think after what was probably the longest offseason of his playing career, he will be coming out with a heavy chip on his shoulder. Each of these players’ reps will be very limited, but look for Sanchez to play at a higher level than Dalton.
This will be a great test for the Ground and Pound. Fact.
Cincinnati ranked 7th in total defense last season, and for good reason. They have talent all over the board, especially in the front seven. They posses great size up front in players like Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, as well as defensive leader Rey Maualuga who racked up 88 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception in just 13 games last season. This is a very tough, hard nosed defense, with great experience against offenses that can effectively run the ball, as they play Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice each season. Any team that has to face Ray Rice twice in the same year is no stranger to power football, so this will be a very good, early test for the Jets’ projected return to the “Ground and Pound” philosophy. Friday night should be an excellent gauge of how far along this new system is, as well as where improvements need to be made. It will be very interesting to see how the heavily scrutinized Shonn Greene, the rising Bilal Powell, and the polarizing Tim Tebow contribute.
Mark Sanchez has the most to prove in this game. False.
While Sanchez may have the most to prove over the course of the entire season, this game will have little effect on how he is judged as the Quarterback of this team. He will see very limited reps, plus there are a countless number of players with much more to prove tomorrow night.
Patrick Turner is certainly one of those guys, as he is constantly overlooked despite having quietly developed what seems to be a nice chemistry with Sanchez. Jordan White was extremely productive in college and should have ample opportunity to prove his worth with all of the injuries at Wide Receiver. LaRon Landry certainly would love to show that he is healthy and capable of playing at the level that made him the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Quinton Coples would love to put all the question marks surrounding him to bed, and although that will not be possible in just one game, he can certainly take a step in the right direction.
Austin Howard will get plenty of reps with Wayne Hunter being sidelined, and he needs to prove to the organization that they do not need to add depth at the tackle position from the outside. As the season progresses, veterans like Bart Scott, Tim Tebow, Jeremy Kerley, and Santonio Holmes will all be highly motivated to put recent criticism behind them, but that will not happen in the first game of the preseason, especially for Holmes and Kerley who will not be participating in the contest. Tebow and Scott could certainly play well, but they will not be considered to have proven anything until the regular season.
The Jets Defense Will Impress Early. Fact.
Many observers forget how good this defense actually is. Rex Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine produced a top 5 defense last season, despite finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the first time with the Jets. New York has done what it could to address the areas of need at Safety and in the pass rush, so each of those areas should be improved in comparison to last season. More importantly though, the Jets defense seems to have gotten their edge back. Reports out of camp already reveal that Bart Scott is back to his “Madbacker” form. Antonio Cromartie, although many times painfully outspoken, certainly will be coming into this game a bit enraged due to all the recent criticism directed toward him in the past week. LaRon Landry seems ready to run through a brick wall if he doesn’t hit someone in a different colored jersey soon, and Aaron Maybin and Ricky Sapp have been turning heads all camp.
From what we have seen in training camp so far, this defense has regained its speed, its motor, and most importantly, its swagger. Expect the starting unit to come out looking to make a statement early, especially considering the fact that they realize they will only have a few series to do so.
Rex Ryan is the most intriguing coach in this game. False.
Rex undoubtedly loves to be in the spotlight, and the media generally loves to focus on him. However, this game is not so much about Ryan as it is about the newcomers. It is going to be very interesting to see the first live action of Tony Sparano’s new system. There is plenty to look for including an established running game, command of the offense by Sanchez, and whether or not the offensive line has improved yet.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, it will be extremely intriguing to see the work of new defensive line Coach Karl Dunbar. Dunbar certainly has a surplus of depth and talent up front, so it will be interesting to see if he is in the early stages of maximizing that. New York’s pass rush has been built primarily on scheme since the appointment of Rex Ryan as head coach, so if they can generate a rush without having to blitz as much, it will be a very positive sign for Dunbar and his unit. Wide Receiver’s coach Sanjay Lal is another newcomer to the staff, and considering all the injuries at the position so far, the wide receiver play could say a lot about his coaching ability. If the younger, less experienced players come out strong, it could tell us something very good about Lal.