Jets vs. Cowboys: Game Breakdown

Offense: The New York Jets need to be in attack mode from the first snap of the game. There is too much talent at the wide receiver and tight end position for them not to have a game plan based around a downfield passing attack to take advantage of a battered and suspect Dallas secondary. You can’t double team Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller, meaning at some point all three should have opportunities to make huge plays. It is imperative that the Jets get Burress involved early on a safe pass to calm his nerves and get him into the flow of the game. Holmes is going to get his looks but Mark Sanchez can’t forget about Dustin Keller and Derrick Mason in the short to intermediate passing game on third down situations.

Sanchez has a prime opportunity to demonstrate his progression as he enters the third year in this system. We are past color coded wrist bands and games with sub 50% completion percentages. He needs to play confident from the first snap and put together a statement performance on national television.

Let’s not entirely forget about the running game, which will set up the opportunity for play action down the field. We have heard all about Shonn Greene being the feature back so Brian Schottenheimer needs to prove it by giving him at least 16-20 carries. LaDainian Tomlinson will be out there on third downs and to occasionally spell Greene. I wouldn’t expect to see Joe McKnight or Jeremy Kerley except for a handful of plays. Kerley could take a few snaps from the Wildcat to give upcoming defenses more to prepare for.

Wayne Hunter will be under the microscope on the offensive line, especially in his match-ups against DeMarcus Ware. The Jets don’t frequently give help to their tackles so Hunter will be on an island at times and needs to protect Sanchez so the Jets can attack down the field.

Defense: Just like the offense, they need to attack from the first snap of the game. If he gets cleared to play, rookie first round pick Tyron Smith will start at right tackle. Rookie Bill Nagy is starting at left guard and Phil Costa will be making his second career start at center. Tony Romo should also be rusty considering he missed the last two thirds of the 2010 season. I am aware it is risky to leave your corners on islands against Miles Austin and Dez Bryant but that is why Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie make the big bucks. Expect to see plenty of 6 and 7 man blitzes coming right at Romo.

The match-up that is most concerning for the Jets is tight end Jason Witten. Their defense struggled against tight ends last year and Witten is one of the best in the business. Their safeties are not equipped to cover him one on one, so the Jets will have to mix and match double teams at him and maybe occasionally throw Revis on him.

Felix Jones is a serious home run threat out of the backfield, so it is important the Jets keep contain and force him to run north and south. He is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and Dallas will likely attempt to take advantage of the Jets lack of speed at linebacker.

It will be interesting to see how Rex Ryan uses his bench on defense. Look for Jamaal Westerman, Kyle Wilson, Brodney Pool, Ropati Pitoitua, and Donald Strickland to see plenty of action. This is an important game in particular for Westerman and Wilson who need to prove they deserve big roles on the defense. Also keep an eye out for rookie first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson making his career regular season start.

Special Teams: Nick Folk and TJ Conley will be under the microscope all year at kicker and punter for the Jets, respectively. Conley in particular could be a bad game or two away from being released.  Look for rookie Jeremy Kerely to handle most of the return duties. Antonio Cromartie will likely get a rep or two on kick return and run it out regardless of where it is kicked. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jim Leonhard deep on a punt in a big spot. Brian McCann is listed as the Cowboys primary returner but Dez Bryant and Felix Jones both have the ability to step in and provide a major threat. Cowboys kicker David Buehler has one of the strongest legs in the game.

Preliminary Thoughts: Jets vs. Dallas

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.