TOJ 1st & 10: 10 Things To Watch for the New York Jets (Week 1)

DA Osorio gives 10 thoughts heading into week 1 of the 2021 season.

That’s right, my boys: week one is upon us, and I’m here to pinch-hit for the good brother Stephen Russo for this week’s 1st & 10. By the time the Jets kick off their season in Charlotte, North Carolina, it would’ve been 252 days since Adam Gase patrolled the sidelines and Sam Darnold was throwing passes into triple coverage. That era? Gone. It is now Bobby Duran Saleh and Zach Morris Wilson’s turn to right this ship and gets the Jets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Here are 10 things I’ll be looking for.

1. How good CJ Mosley looks:
He was the best defensive player for the Jets the last time he was on the field and he is the unquestioned leader of this unit. If Mosley is the same player he was versus Buffalo (9 tackles and a pick-six), it makes the Jets defense that much more formidable. There are questions at the cornerback position, but the middle of the Jets defense (Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye, and CJ) will go a long way towards mitigating those concerns if they’re as good as they have shown. It starts with #57.

2. How Mehki Becton and Morgan Moses handle Brian Burns and Haason Reddick:
21.5 sacks last year for Brian Burns and newly-signed EDGE Haason Reddick, so the Jets’ bookends will be tested right out of the gate. How well they handle that will go a long way towards determining if the trip to the Queen City is a successful one or a disaster. Becton had an 83.8% pass rush win rate last year, while the former WFTer Moses allowed 5 sacks and had 6 penalties. Something has to give.

3. How Bryce Hall matches up with DJ Moore:
DJ Moore might really be the most underrated WR in the NFL, as he’s coming off back-to-back 1000+ yard seasons despite not having the chance to play with a starting-caliber NFL QB. That won’t change with Sam Darnold, but clearly, it hasn’t stopped him from producing. Moore played on the outside on 83% of his snaps last year and received the 6th most deep targets in the league with 26. He was 14th in yards per reception, 11th in yards per target, and 12th in yards per route run. He didn’t win by getting a ton of separation, so theoretically this could be a good matchup for the physical Hall, but if not then this could be a big game for DJ.

4. How Robby Anderson and Terrence Marshall are defended by the rest of the Jets secondary:
Terrence Marshall enters his first regular-season game as the highest-rated rookie WR via PFF, and Jets fans are very familiar with the Sun Gawd as he’s coming off his first 1,000+ yard season. The Jets spent three day-3 picks on cornerbacks and released Blessaun Austin in order to give the young corners a chance. Well, they’re going to get their chance, alright. Marshall slots in as the replacement for Curtis Samuel in Panthers Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady’s offense, and figures to draw either rookie Michael Carter (a much-smaller corner) or rookie Jason Pinnock while Anderson draws rookie Brandin Echols. If the Jets have intentions of winning this game, we cannot see the back of their jerseys too often.

5. If Quinnen Williams dominates Pat Elflein:
Coming off a strong sophomore season, the addition of EDGE Carl Lawson was supposed to give Williams the chance to really dominate in year 3. DraftSZN’s Michael Meegan has predicted that Q is talked about as a top-3 IDL by season’s end and, while I do not share that optimism, it is hard not to be excited for what the former ‘Bama DT gives us this season. He’s going against Pat Elflein (and, at times, John Miller), so this is advantage Jets on literally every snap. He had seven sacks and two forced fumbles last year and the addition of Sheldon Rankins means teams will be wise to not double-team him every chance they get. An errant Sam Darnold pass caused by a Quinnen Williams bull-rush might as well be written in blood.

6. Who emerges at RB out of the gate:
Ty Johnson was the best back in camp, but Michael Carter has the highest ceiling, and free-agent addition Tevin Coleman figures to be in the mix. Carolina’s defense was 20th against the run last year and 28th in yards allowed per attempt. There will be plays in the run game, and who is the one making them will be interesting to watch.

7. How is Elijah Moore used:
The Jets have the deepest WR group they’ve had in a really long time, and that was true before they took the Ole Miss standout with their first pick at the top of the second round. A much better pick than the New York Giants taking AR Toney 14 picks earlier, Elijah Moore can play in the slot or on the outside, and it is safe to assume the Jets will move him around a lot in the formation. We have to assume because Moore didn’t see the field at all during the preseason, but his first action comes against a team with the 3rd fewest interceptions last year. Similar to Carolina’s WRs versus the Jets corners, the Jets have the advantage versus the Carolina secondary, and Moore is a big reason why.

8. Corey Davis versus rookie Jaycee Horn:
I’ve said all offseason that the signing of Corey Davis feels very much like the signing of Plaxico Burress by the Giants from the Steelers: a young guy with a ton of talent who is just much better in his 2nd contract, Davis already has a rapport with his young QB and will be heavily featured in this passing game. He draws who I had at CB1 in South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn, who seemed to be picking off Sam Darnold daily in Panthers training camp. For Zach Wilson to have a productive game, Corey Davis needs to school the young corner: Horn struggled with Elijah Moore and guys like him in college, whereas bigger targets where Horn could get his hands on them didn’t pose much of a threat. Davis fits the latter, except he also has deceptive speed. If he is cooking Horn repeatedly and Wilson is finding him, I expect the Jets offense to dominate.

9. Can Connor McGovern keep DT Derrick Brown from collapsing the pocket:
If he can’t? Game over.

10. Will Zach Wilson be better than Sam Darnold:
This is it right here and let me just say this: entering the draft, Zach Wilson in 2021 was better than Sam Darnold in 2018. There is no comparison between either of them as prospects entering their first NFL season. I’d even argue that 2021 Zach Wilson is a better QB today than QB Sam Darnold was leaving New York, as he was the 39th best QB in a league with only 32 teams. ALOT will be written after this game about two things:

one: how the Jets did the right thing by moving on from Darnold if they win
two: how the Jets did the wrong thing by not trading back from 2 and building around Darnold if they lose

None of those questions will be answered one Sunday afternoon in September, but if Zach Wilson balls and outplays Darnold (like I think he will), then it will go a long way towards silencing the beat writers who already have the #IToldYouSo pieces written. Wilson has a lot of talent on his OL and at WR, way more help than Darnold ever had, but he also is the more talented QB. I expect him to show that on Sunday, and for the Jets to leave Ric Flair Country 1-0.

Previously On TOJ:
https://turnonthejets.com/2021/09/tojs-year-in-preview-new-york-jets-iol/

Author: Dalbin Osorio

Dalbin Osorio is a Case Planner for Graham-Windham, New York's oldest child welfare agency. He is, also, a student at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Dalbin graduated from Monroe College with a degree in Business Administration. A 3 sport utility man in high school (think a mix of Jerome WIlliams, Brad Smith, and Jayson Nix), he joined TOJ in 2013.