New York Jets opponent loses starting blocker

The New England Patriots will be without one of their top blockers against the New York Jets on Sunday in East Rutherford.

The New England Patriots announced on Saturday that right tackle Trent Brown would not play in Sunday’s tilt against the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

Brown injured his calf on the first series of the Patriots’ opening weekend tilt against the Miami Dolphins. He’s in the midst of his first year in New England, having arrived through a trade with Las Vegas. Justin Herron and Yasir Durant appear to handle Brown’s reps in East Rutherford.

With Brown out, the Jets’ pass rush has an opportunity to raise some much-needed pressure on rookie quarterback Mac Jones. New York (0-1) struggled to make the Carolina Panthers’ backfield uncomfortable last Sunday in Charlotte. The Jets’ pass rush was expected to struggle after prized acquisition Carl Lawson was lost for the season. It mustered only a single sack against Sam Darnold and the Panthers. John Franklin-Myers was a welcome exception to the struggles, earning two tackles for a loss, including the aforementioned quarterback takedown.

Brown’s downgrade wasn’t the only New England transaction on Saturday as the hours countdown toward their visit to the Garden State: the team added defensive lineman Tashawn Bower and kicker Nick Folk to its active roster. Another kicker, Quinn Nordin, was placed on injured reserve.

As for the Jets, they’re likely to be without rookie linebacker Jamien Sherwood, who was labeled doubtful with an ankle injury. Receivers Keelan Cole (knee) and Jamison Crowder (groin) are questionable as is tackle Chuma Edoga (non-COVID illness) and Isaiah Dunn (shoulder).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

Reeling from several injuries from their opener, the road ahead gets no easier for the New York Jets, who face an angry Patriots squad.

  • What: New England Patriots (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
  • Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS
 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Geoff Magliocchetti

If one were scripting the Robert Saleh era for the big screen, the subplot of his Jets opening up their MetLife Stadium slate and harkening the return of fans against the hated Patriots would likely be rejected for its lack of subtlety. Nonetheless, it’s what the powers-that-be at the NFL asked for.

There would be no better way to welcome supporters back and kick off the Saleh era on the right note than ending several dubious streaks against New England. The Patriots haven’t lost at MetLife Stadium since 2015. Their last regulation loss on Route 3 came in MetLife’s current parking lot, then known as Giants Stadium, in 2009. Overall, the Patriots have won ten straight against the Jets. Even New England’s struggles in year one A.B. (After Brady) weren’t enough for the Jets to steal a victory, though they needed every inch of clock to win the November showing in the Garden State.

One of the attainable goals for the modern Gang Green should be to earn a showcase victory or two, a throat-clearing gesture that would warn the football world that this isn’t your father’s Jets, your older brother’s Jets…heck, your twin brother’s Jets. Finally flipping the script on this one-sided rivalry would certainly be one way to do that, especially with green fans walking through MetLife’s turnstiles for a meaningful game for the first time since December 2019.

But circumstances aren’t tilted in the Jets’ favor: the 2021 NFL season is only a week old, but the Jets have suffered at least a month’s worth of medically-induced calamities, one that that has turned their injury ledger into the top of a depth chart. Everyone knew that Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis wouldn’t be ready to go for the return to East Rutherford but the kickoff contest in Carolina erased Mekhi Becton, Lamarcus Joyner, and Blake Cashman, each of whom landed on injured reserve. Another fallen starter, linebacker Jamien Sherwood, avoided major catastrophe, but will still miss New England’s visit.

The makeshift Jets deserve a lot of credit for what happened in Carolina, particularly in a second half won by a 14-3 margin. Alas, in what’s set to become a recurring theme in 2021, many of the green victories won’t be seen on the scoreboard. Asking this ragtag group, one that has already had to seek sizable help from abroad, to not only exorcise some bad Boston-based juju but to conquer a Bill Belichick-led team that’s no doubt still peeved over dropping a winnable divisional contest is too much at this point.

Patriots 24, Jets 17

zach wilson, jets

Brendan Carpenter

The Jets’ future fell just short to their past Sunday, as Sam Darnold and the Panthers came away victorious in a 19-14 final. While they didn’t get the win, there are some positives to be taken away regarding the offense that should have them excited for the home opener against the Patriots this weekend.

For starters, Zach Wilson looked poised, collected, and exciting. He made those eye-popping throws that fans rave about, most notably ones that were caught by Corey Davis for a touchdown and a potential deep-gain that was dropped by Elijah Moore. The downside of seeing him make those throws? They almost all came after horrible blocking and breakdowns by the offensive line.

The offensive line needs to hold up better against New England, a task made all the more difficult now that Mekhi Becton is out. The offensive line should play better throughout, though, and won’t be the deciding factor: that burden instead falls to the defense.

The young secondary played well in Week 1 and the Patriots’ receivers aren’t as lethal as they were in years past, so that should be encouraging. However, the Jets are going to have to bring more pressure against Mac Jones and make him uncomfortable because if they don’t, he’ll dissect the defense. If that happens, game over.

The biggest thing the Jets’ defense has to do, though, is what they didn’t do against Carolina: they allowed 93 receiving yards to Panther running backs (namely Christian McCaffrey). The Patriots have James White, who had six catches in Week 1’s loss to Miami. Linebackers will need to make watching the running backs, even during passing plays, a priority.

The Jets will have their work cut out for them against a team that has, putting it nicely, had their number for the last decade-plus. With defensive injuries to linebackers Blake Cashman and Jamien Sherwood and safety Lamarcus Joyner, they’re thin. The offense will play better but the defense will seemingly have some difficulty.

Patriots 27, Jets 21

 (Photo By Streeter Lecka)

Dylan Price

The Jets dropped Sunday’s opener to the Panthers in a 19-14 outing. Gang Green came out of the gates with a first half that could be described as abysmal at best. Blockers failed to protect Zach Wilson, who had little to no time in the pocket. The defense was worn out as the Panthers controlled the time of possession throughout the first half.

In the second half, though, we saw a different team. The offensive line still struggled, but the team finished the game with momentum. Heading into Sunday, the Jets’ two largest challenges will be the offensive line and containing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The Jets’ defense should have a chance to capitalize on the inexperienced Mac Jones, especially if the secondary can replicate Sunday’s second half performance. Ultimately, I foresee a tight game that ends with the Patriots narrowly etching out the win.

Patriots 20, Jets 17

Best of the Rest

Magliocchetti Carpenter Price
NY Giants @ Washington (Thu.) Giants Football Team Football Team
Buffalo @ Miami Bills Bills Bills
Cincinnati @ Chicago Bears Bengals Bengals
Denver @ Jacksonville Broncos Broncos Broncos
Houston @ Cleveland Browns Browns Browns
Las Vegas @ Pittsburgh Steelers Raiders Raiders
LA Rams @ Indianapolis Rams Rams Rams
New Orleans @ Carolina Saints Saints Saints
San Francisco @ Philadelphia 49ers 49ers 49ers
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers Buccaneers
Minnesota @ Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals
Dallas @ LA Chargers Cowboys Cowboys Chargers
Tennessee @ Seattle Titans Seahawks Seahawks
Kansas City @ Baltimore Ravens Chiefs Chiefs
Detroit @ Green Bay (Mon.) Packers Packers Lions
Last Week 7-9 7-9 6-10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 things to watch in New York Giants’ final pre-season game against New England

new york giants, joe judge

The New York Giants are gearing up to take on the New England Patriots in the final preseason game of the 2021 off-season. Having lost their first two preseason games, the Giants will feature the first-team offense and defense in preparation for Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. However, the Giants will be without several key pieces on offense, including Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, Kadarius Toney, and Saquon Barkley.

We will get a good view and look at some of the Giants’ reserve pieces, including running back Devante Booker and potentially several back-end receivers gunning for a roster spot. Both Dante Pettis and David Sills are competing to make the roster, and with Pettis showing out against the Patriots during joint practices, things could be closer than they appear.

Three things to watch in the New York Giants’ final pre-season game against New England:

1.) The performance of the offensive line

First and foremost, the performance of the offensive line remains a question mark heading into the regular season. With starting left guard Shane Lemieux working his way back from a knee injury, working with trainers at the Giants’ facilities instead of traveling to New England, getting a look at him this weekend will be essential.

A lack of continuity and experience plagues Daniel Jones’s protection scheme, but the hope is they can gradually improve as the season moves along. Last year, the line struggled to get anything going in the first half of the season, which led to the firing of OL coach Marc Colombo.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas has reported they look great during training camp and during joint practices and will get a bit more action against the Patriots on Sunday. Creating chemistry between Thomas and Jones during live action is essential, but the right tackle spot is also up for grabs. Both Matt Peart and Nate Solder are battling it out. This is a position battle work keeping an eye on.

2.) Daniel Jones’s pocket presence

Of course, one of the Giants’ biggest weaknesses has been Daniel Jones’s pocket presence over the first two seasons of his career. Heading into year three, Jones has spent ample time improving his drop-back and muscle memory when it comes to clutching the football with two hands in the pocket. Jones has 29 total fumbles over the past two seasons and will be looking to lessen the number as his rookie contract quickly approaches a danger zone. The front office is clearly confident he will take a big step forward, but his success is directly correlated to the offensive line, which has brewed little optimism thus far during camp.

The starters will have the first half at least to get some important work in, and hopefully, Jones put together a positive performance.

3.) The secondary

With Adoree Jackson suffering a low ankle sprain, the Giants will likely have a few rotational pieces next to James Bradberry in the secondary on Sunday. Expect to see Julian Love, Rodarius Williams, and a few others compete at CB2 for starting snaps. Judge stated on Friday that Williams has done enough to prove he’s capable of being a good player, so he’s all but a lock to make the 53-man roster.

Luckily for the Giants, they escaped anything serious with Jackson’s ankle, as he was moving around freely with trainers during Friday’s walk-through practice. He’s expected to be available for Week 1 against Denver but will miss the first unit’s opportunity to get on the field during a real-game setting this weekend.

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: New England Patriots

There would be, perhaps, no better way for the New York Jets to open a new era than by ending their losing streak against the Patriots.

The Opponent: New England Patriots
The Dates: Week 2, September 19, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)/Week 7, October 24, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NE)*
The Series: New England leads 69-54-1 (last meeting: 2020, 28-14 NE)

*-(subject to flexible scheduling)

Year one of the post-Tom Brady era was a merciless kick back to reality for the New England Patriots. Yet, one tradition lingered from Brady’s historic tenure: beating the New York Jets.

For all the Patriots’ faults in 2020, they managed to keep their winning streak against the Jets alive, sweeping the annual pair for a fifth straight season. The Jets haven’t earned a sweep against New England since 2000…one year before Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe inadvertently shifted the course of NFL history. New England’s ten-game winning streak is the longest in the series that dates back to the days of the AFL, breaking a nine-game tally the Jets had between 1966 and 1970.

The Jets came close to ending the streak last season in a Monday night showdown in November at MetLife Stadium. New York, in fact, owned a two-possession lead entering the final quarter, but surrendered 13 points over the final six-plus minutes en route to a 30-27 defeat.

New York and New England also met in the final week of the season. Meaningless finales between the Jets and Patriots have been nothing new since the NFL instituted an all-divisional matchup slate for the last week, as New England would often rest starters going into the playoffs. This time, though, mere pride was on the line and the Patriots sent the Adam Gase era note out on an appropriate thud, topping the Jets 28-14.

Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Patriots

Bill Belichick is burdened with a load he hasn’t had to deal with in a long, long time: something to prove.

Few can question the impact and legacy…more a path of destruction…that Belichick has left behind. But last season created the closest thing to a smear one can make on Belichick’s New England ledger: Brady moved on to Tampa Bay and immediately won another Super Bowl with Belichick over 1,300 miles away.

Belichick isn’t like Michael Jordan: he won’t publicly declare that he “took that personally”. But Brady’s instant success in a new locale has to be eating at him a little. Every eye in the football world will turn to Foxboro on October 3, when Brady and the Buccaneers arrive for a Sunday night visit. But the Patriots will have a spotlight on them all season after last season’s flop.

Despite the departure Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and recent retiree Julian Edelman, the Patriots still have leftovers from their most recent glory days. Sony Michel’s third season was cut short by bouts on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve, but he performed well over the final three games of last season (287 yards on 40 touches). Devin McCourty returns for his 12th season, flanked by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (the latter earning nine interceptions last season).

New York Jets, Hunter Henry
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in New England?

Belichick did what any supposed villain would do after getting wronged: he spent a lot of money in an attempt to get revenge. 

New England spent over $316 million in free agency endeavors this offseason, a project headlined by swiping the top two available tight ends. The post-Gronkowski situation was even more garish, as Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi united for only 238 yards on 15 receptions last year.

New England remedied this issue by brining in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, dedicating over $12 million in 2021 cap space to the former AFC foes. The Patriots have never been hesitant to use two tight ends, routinely pairing Gronkowski with names like Brandon LaFell, Martellus Bennett, and Aaron Hernandez. Expect to see them reemploy more 12 personnel sets with two elite names in tow.

On defense, the Patriots brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon. He’ll join  returnees Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower will re-don the Flying Elvis after one-year absences. Van Noy returns after one year with divisional rival Miami while Hightower opted out of last season in the midst of the health crisis. Speaking of front seven additions, the Patriots also added former Jet Henry Anderson, who never lived up to the $25 million extension granted to him in 2019.

No discussion about the post-Brady Patriots would be complete without looking at the quarterback situation. Cam Newton got off to a hot start but was never the same after missing an October game in Kansas City on the COVID-19 list. The 32-year-old Newton is projected to be the opening day starter but the Patriots used April’s 15th overall selection on Alabama thrower Mac Jones.

When it comes to the quarterback’s targets, the Patriots appear to be moving on from first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers returns for his third season after a breakthrough year in the slot (729 yards), while team added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor from the west cost.

(Photo By Streeter Lecka)

How to Beat Them

-Wow, What a (Pass) Rush 

The home opener against the Patriots will be an early test for the Jets’ revamped pass rush.

Even Brady finds himself flustered by a strong backfield invasion; if not for that of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, he might have a Super Bowl ring for every finger. The Jets played a rare role in a Brady denial during their most recent playoff triumph: on that magical evening in January 2011, the Jets took down the arguable GOAT five times.

No matter whom the Jets face under center, they have to up the pressure. Newton can still move around as he gets deeper into his 30s…he scored two on the ground in the first meeting last season…but this isn’t the same Newton we saw during his Carolina heyday. New England was 3-6 when teams blitzed on at least 25 percent of Newton’s snaps last season. The pressure situation should only increase with Jones in tow, as there would probably be no better way to welcome the national champion to the NFL than a relentless rush.

The Jets know just how important pressure will be. Their most impactful 2021 contract is Carl Lawson’s three-year, $45 million deal that lured him away from Cincinnati. Enough has been written about how Lawson has made a defensive impact despite pedestrian sack totals. The early showdown with the Patriots will give him a perfect opportunity to back the early praise up.

-Push the Patriots off the Pedestal 

The horrors that the Patriots have subjected the Jets to could qualify as the stuff of urban legends at this point. November’s aforementioned Monday night loss, for example, was a positive in mere sense that it was the Jets’ first one-possession loss since the infamous Austin Seferian-Jenkins incident in 2017.

Nothing would symbolize a new era of Jets football better than taking down the hated Patriots. So desperate is the metropolitan area for a sports celebration…the Canyon of Heroes has been vacant to local affairs since the Giants’ parade in 2011 (the United States’ World Cup champion women’s soccer team in 2015 and 2019 notwithstanding)…that plans for a Robert Saleh statue could be submitted if the Jets take that Week 2 tilt. The fact that fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium for an NFL regular season game for the first time since December 2019 only adds to how much the Patriots’ will mean.

But the Jets can’t go in with that mindset. A win is a win, no matter who it comes against. The Patriots are the Patriots…they’re a football team not a boogeyman. New York shouldn’t buy into the increased hype just because it’s been a while since they’ve enjoyed a win over a certain divisional rival.

Saleh walked through MetLife Stadium for the first time in June. Unlike, say, Rex Ryan, the newly minted Jets boss wasn’t looking to create bulletin board material for the New England locker room. Instead, his focus lingered only what a win would mean for the New York area. He hoped to create a similar atmosphere seen during late spring’s postseason endeavors at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, where he witnessed the respective playoff runs of the New York Knicks and New York Islanders.

“I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium filled where that thing becomes live again like it’s been in the past,” Saleh said in a report from team writer Eric Allen. “New York fans are extremely passionate. They love their home teams, they’re rabid to a sense and it’s awesome. It comes from just absolute love for their teams. But like everything else in the world, you got to earn it.”

“We’re excited about all the work we’re putting in. We’re excited to get the opportunity to earn the same response at MetLife stadium and let the fans light that place up.”

How important is it for the Jets to end their losing streak against New England? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

Should the New York Jets look into WR N’Keal Harry?

n'keal harry, jets, patriots

Would the embattled first-round pick from New England fit into the New York Jets’ receiver evolution? ESM investigates.

Could an enemy of the New York Jets’ greatest enemy become their friend?

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry entered the NFL with a fair amount of hype as a 2019 first-round pick (32nd overall) of the New England Patriots. Fresh off three dominant seasons at Arizona State, the 6-foot-4 Harry was set to pick up where the (temporarily) retired Rob Gronkowski left off, serving as a big downfield target for Tom Brady. Alas, injuries ate away at his rookie season and he struggled to find a role in the post-Brady era.

Through two seasons, Harry has tallied 414 yards on 45 receptions, the latter tally being worst amongst first-round skill players. Those are tough numbers for the final pick of the 2019 first round, chosen before second-round standouts like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.

It appears that Harry is looking to hit the reset button before his third season gets underway. His agent Jamal Tooson released a statement detailing their desires for a trade.

“Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college,” Tooson’s statement, released on Tuesday, reads in part, per ESPN. “Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client.”

With Harry on the block, should the New York Jets inquire? ESM investigates…

The Case For Harry

What Harry could use right now is a stable situation where there’s relatively little to lose.

A change of scenery to such a locale helped fellow first-round receiver Sammy Watkins (Buffalo, 2014) reclaim the narrative on his NFL career. Watkins was in a bit of a different situation, as injuries derailed his career in Orchard Park. After a tough third season marred by injury, Watkins was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams and later caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs. Through those destinations, Watkins rediscovered his spark as a supporting piece on a contender. By the 2019-20 postseason, he was a vital contributor to a Super Bowl run. He recently earned himself a new contract in Baltimore (one-year, $6 million)

Alas for fans of green New York football, their “nothing to lose” situation stems from no one expecting anything out of them as they prepare to write the next chapter of their rebuild anthology. But they provide what Harry appears to be looking for: opportunities and relative peace.

The Jets’ offensive revolution this offseason yielded receiving building blocks of both the rookie (Elijah Moore) and veteran (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) variety. While, on paper, Zach Wilson has a better arsenal to work with than anything granted to Sam Darnold, there is no clear-cut No. 1 receiver in this group yet. Adding Harry, a receiver with something to prove, could intensify an already-firey and potentially high-octane receiver situation in New York.

Additionally, the Jets have some day three draft pieces to work around if they were to inquire about Harry. A deal for the receiver likely wouldn’t cost, say, the 2022 second-rounder gleaned from the Darnold deal with Carolina. The Jets currently own three picks in the next spring’s sixth round, the extra pair stemming from trades of Steve McLendon (from Tampa Bay) and Jordan Willis (San Francisco).

The Case Against Harry

An arsenal of receivers with something to prove sounds delightful in a relative gap year. No one expects the Jets to do much in 2021, but the year can serve as an explosive coming attraction for what’s on the horizon for the Wilson/Robert Saleh era. Davis, Moore, Cole, as well as returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, have a chance to prove their mettle as top targets.

At what point, however, does one have too much of a good, yet uncertain, thing?

The Jets did a solid job of avoiding co-authorship on redemption stories this offseason. Attempting to ghostwrite such a tome was one (of many) reasons the Le’Veon Bell gambit didn’t work out. Sure, they brought in some potential comeback stories…such as former San Francisco rusher Tevin Coleman…but those are ones they can not only afford (Coleman’s deal is a $2 million single season) but can stage with relatively little fanfare.

The Jets have enough things to worry about as they get to work in trying to snap a playoff drought that’s by far the longest in pro football. Adding a rare Bill Belichick washout just adds unwanted attention to what they’re trying to build.

The Verdict

Trades between the Jets and Patriots are rare, but there is precedent…the recently retired Demaryius Thomas began the final stages of his NFL journey through a 2019 deal and the teams swapped picks during the 2020 proceedings. Those picks have thus far netted James Morgan, Cameron Clark, and current rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen.

That alone should probably scare the Jets off in terms of bartering with New England. But even if you’re not superstitious, the Jets’ receiver room is fine as it is. Sure, if Harry emerged as a superstar in New York…succeeding where the almighty Belichick failed…it’d be fun to leave that lingering over the heads of Patriots fans. But, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, the Jets aren’t in any position to make moves out of spite.

If the Jets were in a further position of need when it came to receiver…i.e. the early stage of last season when Braxton Berrios and Jeff Smith were their top targets…it would’ve been understandable for them to rise to the occasion and send a pick or two over before Harry potentially hit the free agent market after final training camp cuts. But, frankly, Harry isn’t the Patriot they should have their eyes on. If anything, the team would be better served to try and land one of the New England backups (preferably Brian Hoyer) to serve as Wilson’s understudy and/or mentor.

Harry should find some takers, but it doesn’t make sense for the Jets to expedite the process right now.

Verdict: Pass

Should the Jets keep an eye on Harry? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Joint practices with New England Patriots on the cards

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Despite the New York and Boston rivalry and two Super Bowl matchups, there’s an obvious connection between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Everyone knows about Bill Belichick going from the Giants to the Patriots, but current Giants head coach Joe Judge is also a part of that connection as a member of Belichick’s coaching tree.

That connection, it seems, could result in joint practices between both teams this preseason.

The report comes from ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who says the logistics of the practices are still up in the air.

The Patriots have known their opponents for some time, and if everything comes together with COVID-19 considerations, joint practices with the Eagles and Giants could be finalized. One possibility discussed, but is not official at this point, is having the Patriots-Giants practices in Foxborough, even though the game will be played in East Rutherford, N.J.

Interestingly enough, the practices could happen in New England even though the preseason game between the teams is set to happen in New Jersey.

That preseason game will also be the finale for both teams, as the fourth preseason game was axed as part of the league’s expanded schedule beginning this year.

The Giants will have another game in January instead of what would be the final preseason matchup, in a change from the previous norm.

We’ve known for a while that Judge is bringing some traits from the New England and Alabama organizations to the Giants after taking over as head coach, so it should be interesting to see if the Giants take anything new away from practicing with the Patriots themselves.

New York Jets schedule: Why Week 2 looms particularly large

National eyes have turned to the New York Jets’ opening matchup in Charlotte, but the home opener against New England will be a true test.

For all its flaws, the NFL status as a genius marketing behemoth cannot be denied.

Its draft is no longer two days in April expanding into a year-round process, a major tenet of which involves a lot of Indianapolis-based spandex and bench presses. Preseason games whose box scores are immediately scorched when the clock hits all zeroes get ratings are given national priority alongside late-season baseball games.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of the NFL’s stranglehold on the American imagination is the release of its annual schedule. The question of “who” yields no surprises…14 of a given team’s 17 opponents are predetermined years in advance and 17 are solidified by the end of final week action…but the question of “when”, the mere attachment of times and dates to these matchups, causes We the People to lose our collective minds. Playoff races in basketball and hockey are cast aside on national highlights show to debate whether the Chicago Bears deserved the Thanksgiving treatment.

Despite the relative lack of surprises, the New York Jets did learn some intriguing info. Though bereft of prime time games, save for a November Thursday night’s excursion to Indianapolis, the Jets will nonetheless study abroad in London, facing off with Atlanta in October. But the matchup everyone’s talking about comes in the Jets’ Week 1 visit to Charlotte to battle the Carolina Panthers.

By now, everyone knows what’s at stake at Bank of America Stadium come September 12: the hope of the Jets’ present and future meets the ghost of all-too-recent football past in the form of Sam Darnold (and Robby Anderson, among others). Despite the combatants carrying over a combined six wins from 2020, many have pegged the interconference showdown as one of the most anticipated get-togethers of opening weekend.

Opening with Carolina works from a Jets perspective in the sense that they can remove Darnold from their list of early “distractions” and carry on with the rest of what’s sure to be a developmental year. But, to that end, their home opener in Week 2 may loom even larger.

For their 2021 home opener, the Jets will welcome the New England Patriots into East Rutherford for the first of their yearly pair. What happens for those precious three hours at MetLife Stadium could well set a permanent tone for what the Jets’ leadership triumvirate of Joe Douglas, Woody Johnson, and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Put aside the fact that three Presidents of the United States have held office and 11 Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been released since the Jets have emerged victorious from a showdown with the Patriots. Zach Wilson’s presumed home opener will mean everything to a Jets team that must do everything in its power to get started on the right note.

It might feel like an eternity since the Jets had a winning record, but one only has to flashback to September 2018. A 48-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football had the fanbase buzzing. The fact that Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass was a pick-six was offset by a strong defensive effort (five turnovers) and the run game run up 179 on the ground. Darnold even made up for his early gaffe with two touchdown tosses in the dominant effort.

However, things came to a crashing halt in the MetLife Stadium opener against Miami. Facing off against future boss Adam Gase, the Jets surrendered the first 20 points before making things somewhat respectable late in a 20-12 loss. It was a sloppy game whose final score was nowhere near indicative of just how one-sided it was.

Now, the Darnold/Gase era didn’t falter solely because they lost to the Dolphins in Week 2 of the former’s rookie campaign. But, in hindsight, it served as perfect foreshadowing of the struggles to come: they turned the ball over three times, saw their rushing protection fall to 41 yards on 17 attempts, and allowed Darnold to get sacked three times. Penalties were prevalent, with the Jets losing 50 yards on seven infractions. Three resulted in Miami’s first downs and a particularly embarrassing sequence

The Jets are still trying to pick up the pieces to this day. That loss signaled the beginning of the end of the Todd Bowles era, mustering a mere three wins after that before he was let go at the end of his third season at the helm. It placed the Jets on a collision course with the disastrous Gase era, a period whose strongest yield was probably the fact it led the hiring of a sound football mind like Saleh, whose arrival has garnered praise both domestically and abroad.

Miami was merely a microcosm of what was to come under Darnold, as it highlighted the issues that would plague his star-crossed New York career. Of the ten starting men that suited up for the Jets that afternoon, only one other (Chris Herndon) was on the team in 2020. The Dolphins were credited with only three sacks of Darnold, but he was nonetheless forced to run for his life, to the tune of five other quarterback takedowns.

Negligence on both the offensive line (featuring only one player chosen within the first day of the draft, the former Seattle Seahawk James Carpenter) and run game (Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell) was a hint of things to come. Current management has seen to counter these issues, using first-round choices (Mehki Becton/Alijah Vera-Tucker) to protect Wilson and bolstering the run game with a stopgap rusher who has been a vital cog in Super Bowl runs (Tevin Coleman).

This season’s home opener is also going to take on a special meaning. Improvements have been discussed ad nauseam but MetLife Stadium will be packed to the brim with fans for a Jets game for the first time since December 2019. We, the football-loving people, have been through a lot over the past year-plus. Fans of the Jets and 13 other NFL teams were denied the simple pleasure of spending Sunday in a parking lot, surrounded by 80,000 of their new best friends. With restrictions loosening across the country, it feels (knock on wood) like it’s only a matter of time before all 30 NFL facilities get the go-ahead to pack the house. No matter the result that day, the first spelling of Jets will be downright emotional.

A brilliant tone can be set for the team moving forward, or another distressing sign of things to come could emerge. What the Jets do in these early hours will mean the world.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets pursue star New England offensive lineman in free agency?

New England Patriots, Joe Thuney

Heading into last offseason, one of the hottest commodities projected to hit the market was two-time Super Bowl champion and all-pro offensive guard Joe Thuney. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were reportedly set to back up the brinks truck to Thuney in hopes he would anchor his offensive line. Then, the Patriots threw a wrench in those plans by tagging Thuney. Now, Thuney will reportedly be allowed to seek a new home this offseason. With Mekhi Becton as the solidified anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, here is why Joe Thuney can give the Jets one of the best tackle/guard combos in football.

Who is Joe Thuney?

Joe Thuney grew up in Ohio and was one of four children. Thuney was not a stranger to success early in life, he was a member of two state championship football teams, he was named offensive lineman of the year in the Greater Catholic League, and was class president in his senior year of high school. Thuney was well-liked on and off the gridiron, and this led to an opportunity to play at NC State. At NC State, Thuney played all over the offensive line taking snaps at center, both tackle spots, and guard during his time with the program. Thuney graduated NC State in three years and received All American honors.

After a successful beginning to his football career, Thuney was selected with the 78th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In five seasons, Thuney has played every single game, not only that, but he has been a team-first guy being adaptable this past season and making the switch to tackle with Marcus Cannon opting out and creating a void. Thuney has been both a depiction of stability and success, winning two rings during his tenure with the Pats.

Why The Jets?

Thuney will command a monster deal this offseason. As one of the most reliable and consistent linemen in the game, he will be paid as such. Now, Joe Douglas has been rather set in his evaluations of certain players in the past, but offensive linemen have been his most focused entity in his brief tenure as general manager to this point. The potential of having two beasts on the offensive line for the long-term future in Thuney and Becton is something the well-traveled exec may not be able to pass up. Not only that, but as we saw just a few weeks ago with Patrick Mahomes, if you don’t have protection, the entire rhythm of the game plan is thrown out the window.

On a relatively young team, Thuney would slot in as a leader and building block for the future. We are talking about a durable, smart, and versatile piece that fits the mold of everything Douglas seems to look for in the guys he wants to fill out his roster with. Add all that into the fact that he is successful no matter the stop. Thuney could be used anywhere on the line, but the idea of Becton and Thuney anchoring the left side could be too much to pass up. No matter where you put him on the line, Thuney would be a massive addition to the team and someone the Jets should not let slip away.

New York Jets: Three Stars from Sunday’s finale at New England

The New York Jets’ 2020 season ended on an appropriately sullen note, as they fell to the New England Patriots in a snowy slog.

If there was ever a perfect day to end the 2020 New York Jets’ season, it was an overcast, cold, snowy, sloppy day at Gillette Stadium…where the Jets were on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Cam Newton put up 322 yards of total offense and threw for three scores in the New England Patriots’ victorious season finale, topping the Jets by a 28-14 final in a meaningless game in Foxboro. The Jets (2-14) were paced by 84 receiving yards on a trio of receptions by Breshad Perriman. In what could his final game as the Jets’ franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold threw for 266 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

The Jets end this season with their lowest win total since 1996, when they won a single game under Rich Kotite. New York also endures their fifth consecutive sweep at the hands of the Patriots (7-9).

For the final time this season, ESM issues the game balls, as multiple eras come to their potential end in Florham Park and East Rutherford.

3rd Star: WR Breshad Perriman

3 receptions, 84 yards

Last season, Perriman earned himself de factor WR1 duties with a strong finish to the regular season. It wasn’t as impressive this time around, but he provided the Jets a strong potential parting gift by serving as their deep ball threat in Foxboro. This comes after he was kept off the stat ledger in last week’s win over Cleveland.

2nd Star: RB Josh Adams

11 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 11 yards

It truly is a shame that, with all due respect to Frank Gore, that consequence-free football in Florham Park and East Rutherford wasn’t dedicated to exploring the Jets’ rushing future. During their brief time together, Adams and Ty Johnson formed a dynamic pair, and it was the former who wound up scoring the final touchdown of this wretched season. He and Johnson united for 92 yards in New England (4.2 average carry) after previously putting up a collaborative 178 in the infamous December loss to Las Vegas.

1st Star: TE Chris Herndon

7 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD

The case for keeping Sam Darnold often covers the ridiculous amount of turn over he has experienced in only three years at the New York helm. No receiver remains from his rookie campaign, with the exception of the tight end Herndon. Darnold’s former rookie camp roommate had struggled to replicate the success of his rookie season, hampered by injuries and other calamities. But Herndon managed to recapture a little bit of his 2018 spark toward the end of the season, capping things off with a game-best in receptions and a touchdown in each of his last two games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs wins AFC Offensive Player of the Week

After a dominant performance in New England, Diggs becomes the first Buffalo Bills catcher to earn POTW honors since Andre Reed.

The 2020 Buffalo Bills have erased yet another dubious streak in this game-changing season.

No Bills receiver had won the AFC Offensive Player of the Week since Andre Reed torched the Green Bay Packers for 191 yards in a November 1994 tilt. Stefon Diggs has ended the drought, earning the honors with a 145-yard performance that yielded three touchdowns on Monday night in New England. Diggs’ performance was a major catalyst in the Bills’ 38-9 victory over New England and clinched their first sweep of the Patriots since 1999.

Situated against New England’s shutdown corner J.C. Jackson, Diggs helped the Bills build an early lead that they would never relinquish. He and Jackson exchanged words all night, but even the defender had kind words for Diggs after their battle.

“He’s a playmaker, he comes back to the ball better than any receiver in the league,” Jackson said, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. “He’s got great hands. You’ve got to almost be perfect when you’re guarding somebody like that. You’ve got to almost have perfect coverage in man-to-man.”

The acquisition of Diggs will likely go down as one of the most important decisions of general manager Brandon Beane’s tenure. Some felt that Beane sent over far too many draft picks (four) in the deal that made Diggs a Bill, which included a first-round choice that became Justin Jefferson. However, Diggs has proven to be well worth the endeavor, currently leading the NFL with 1,459 yards on 120 receptions, which both stand as Buffalo records. The Bills (12-3) have also earned their best win total since 1993 and their first AFC East title since 1995.

Diggs joins his quarterback, Josh Allen, as AFC offensive honorees throughout the course of the 2020 season. Allen has won four this season and six total in his career, trailing only Jim Kelly (10) for most won in a Bills uniform.

Elsewhere in the conference’s weekly honors, Mike Hilton earned the top defensive honors for his role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ vital victory over Indianapolis, while Diggs’ fellow AFC East competitor Jason Sanders earned the special teams title in Miami.

The Bills will end their regular season on Sunday afternoon against the aforementioned Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags