We are back with the first regular season edition of the TOJ #PickSix. For week 1, we’ll take a look at 6 matchups that will go a long way towards determining who leaves MetLife 1-0. Let’s take this one back…
1. Bebrent Qvalijana v Carlos Dunlap
A lot of eyes will be on this matchup as the Jets new starting RT (whether it’s Brent Qvale or Brent Ijilana) draw the Bengals underrated RE Carlos Dunlap. Equally disruptive versus the run as he is against the pass, Dunlap is coming off a season where he had 13.5 sacks and 55 tackles. I expect Ryan Clady to reestablish himself as one of the better left tackles in the league this season with week one being the first step towards that. It will be up to someone from the Qvalijana duo to prevent Dunlap from living in the backfield and wrecking what is sure to be an emotional opener for the Jets on 9/11. Dunlap can singlehandedly do that, so the Jets need a big time performance from whoever starts. My guess? It’s Qvale initially with Ijilana being used as the extra OL.
2. Marcus Gilchrist v Tyler Kroft
With Tyler Eifert out, Tyler Kroft will get the start at TE. Kroft is essentially a poor man’s version of Eifert and the Bengals used him similarly to how they used Eifert last year. Gilchrist performed better than some expected against TEs, and how he handles Kroft will go a long way towards easing the Jets defensive mismatches because they can then rotate coverage to AJ Green should they choose. If the other targets are eating, Bowles will have to adjust or risk falling to 0-1. Kroft averaged almost 12 yards a catch last year in limited duty, and Gilchrist is going to have to wrap him up in the open field because he displayed some good athleticism.
3. Buster Skrine v Tyler Boyd
We’ll get to the other CB/WR matchup in a minute, but this one figures to be even more important as the game wears on the Bengals try to diversify their passing attack in the absence of the aforementioned Eifert and the departed Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu. A lot of Jets fans have written off Skrine as a legit outside starting cornerback, but he’s honestly their second best one by far. Marcus Williams may have gotten all the interceptions last year but it was Skrine who was the x-factor until a shoulder injury limited his effectiveness. Now fully healed, he’s probably in line to draw the rookie WR tasked with replacing Sanu and Jones. If the Jets do decide to blanket Green, Skrine needs to win his matchup against the rookie or it’ll be a long day for the Jets.
4. Darron Lee v Giovani Bernard
Some Jets fans will have you believe that the Jets should be worried about Jeremy Hill and the Bengals running game. I’m here to tell you that’s false. Giovani Bernanrd is the most talented running back in the Bengals backfield; Hill is a north/south runner and is easy to gameplan for. Bernard can beat the Jets as a pass catcher and as an east/west runner, which is what the Jets struggled with last year. Enter Number 50. Darron Lee was drafted for his ability to cover TEs, but with Eifert out he’s going to have to focus on the scatback from North Carolina. Bernard is electric with the ball in his hands and the Bengals use him similar to how the Jets use Bilal Powell in terms of putting him in motion and in the slot. Lee and Bruce Carter are the only two linebackers athletic enough to cover Bernard, and i think the Jets will be wise to use Lee more than Carter due to Carter’s prowess as a pass rusher. If Lee can limit Bernard, it takes away the second best option on offense the Bengals have.
5. Quincy Enunwa v George Iloka
The Jets showed this preseason that they will try to diversify their passing attack by featuring weapons other than Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The beneficiary will be someone I’m high on as a hybrid TE and that’s Quincy Enunwa. Enunwa had Iloka by about 3 inches and 20 pounds. That size will come in handy in the red zone but also in the middle of the field as Enunwa’s athleticism and ability after the catch can be in full display. Enunwa has to limit the lapses in concentration he had last year and become more consistent to ensure that defenses have someone else to key on other than Marshall and Decker. New starting running back Matt Forte is almost as important because of his ability as a pass catcher, but Enunwa is a different animal altogether. Iloka is an underrated safety, and he could be an x-factor for a Bengals defense missing their emotional leader.
6. Darrelle Revis v AJ Green
If you follow my editor, he’s mentioned that the Jets should not leave Darrelle Revis on an island against AJ Green. If you follow me, you know I disagree. I think Revis is still, at worst, the second best cornerback in football. I’d take Revis over Josh Norman because Revis has shown that he doesn’t need a fierce pass rush to be elite and he has a longer track record of doing this as oppose to Norman’s one year of elite play. With that said,
I am putting Revis on Bengals star AJ Green (and any number one WR) until he shows me he consistently can’t do the job. By Revis standards, he had two bad games last year against Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is a top 5 WR and Watkins a talented but oft-injured WR. Hopkins beat Revis on a deep ball that Revis played really well and almost made an acrobatic play on, and Revis gave Watkins a cushion all second game so as to not get beat deep. Other than that? The island was still very much open. The last time the Jets played the Bengals, it was the secondary targets that beat them. They need Revis to remove AJ Green from the start and set the tone for the Jets from the first play. I think back to how Mariano Rivera of the Yankees would blow a save and teams would think it was a chink in their armor, until he’d then rattle off 36 straight. Revis is the Rivera of the Jets, and it’s on him to set the team up on what will undoubtedly be the most emotional game on.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com