We have finally made it Jets fans! After an eventful offseason, we are now a few hours away from kicking things off officially in the Sam Darnold Era. Head Coach Todd Bowles said that the Jets are going up to Detroit to win a game, and these are six things i’ll be looking for as the team aims to do exactly that in week one.
1. Sam Darnold v Mark Sanchez v Geno Smith
Player A: 18/31, 272 yards, 58.1%, 1 TD, 1 INT
Player B: 24/38, 256 yards, 63.2%, 1 TD, 1 INT
Those are the two debuts for the New York Jets’s last two rookie QBs that started week one, Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Folks have rightfully said that Darnold is better entering the league than Geno and Mark where, but both delivered exciting debuts and victories, more importantly. Does Sam Darnold clear that statistical bar tonight and leave Detroit with his team tied for first place?
2. Ziggy Ansah v Kelvin Beachum
The Lions premier pass rusher goes against the Jets left tackle in what could be the first game of Beachum’s last year with the team. The Jets can release Beachum next offseason with no penalties and no money left on the books, and how he handles Ansah tonight will go a long way towards determining what kind of season Beachum will have versus pass rushers like Cameron Wake, Myles Garrett, Von Miller, Yannick Ngakoue, JJ Watt, Clay Matthews, and Khalil Mack.
3. Will Robby Anderson add Darius Slay to the Speed Force?
Playfully dubbed Flash by yours truly last year, Robby Anderson beat every corner he was matched up against and would’ve produced better numbers if he was playing with a better QB. Darius Slay is insanely underrated and has been a top 5 CB for a while now, but Anderson showing development in his route running and beating Slay with different routes will be vital to this Jets passing attack.
4. Leonard Williams and Nathan Shepherd v TJ Lang and Frank Ragnow
Everyone has assumed that Leo Williams will undoubtedly receive a second contract with this team and, while I agree, he has to be better than he has been so far especially for a number six overall pick. This is also the first full year he will be without Sheldon Richardson and Muhammed Wilkerson, so it will fall on him to lead this revamped defensive line. The Lions have TJ Lang, a back to back Pro Bowler, but are also starting a highly-regarded rookie at the other guard position. Steve McClendon will draw another young player in Graham Glasnow, but it will be up to Simba and Nathanos to collapse the pocket and cause Matthew Stafford to make some rushed decisions.
5. Does Trumaine Johnson lock up Marvin Jones?
If the Jets are smart, and I think they will be, Todd Bowles puts Trumaine Johnson on Marvin Jones and lets him follow him from the 10 yard line to the bathroom if needed. Marvin Jones quietly had a top 10 year last year, and has continued to develop into one of the better Wide Receivers in the league since leaving the confines of Andy Dalton. Johnson is one of the better corners in the league and it will be up to him to make the Lions passing attack one-dimensional.
6. Can Avery Williamson keep up with Theo Riddick?
You would not be blamed to scoff at the notion that the Jets need to keep up with a running back that had 3.4 yards per carry, but Riddick is as much a short yardage receiver for the Lions as he is a running back. Riddick has had 3 straight years of at least 50 catches, a catch rate above 70%, and had a comparable yards per catch average to Jarvis Landry. Some people will assume that the task of stopping Riddick will fall on either Darron Lee or Jamal Adams, but I believe Lee will be used as an edge rusher tonight and Adams will be tasked with ensuring that Legarrette Blount doesn’t have one of his signature games. Riddick will fall to new Jet Avery Williamson, who is solid in coverage and displayed the athleticism to stay with RBs in the preseason. Bottling up Riddick goes a long way towards the Jets starting the season off 1-0.