New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants

Tom Brady isn’t done with the New York Jets just yet, as he and the defending champions ring in the new year with a visit to East Rutherford.

The Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Date:
Week 16, January 2, 1 p.m. ET, Fox (@ NY)
The Series: 
Jets lead 10-2 (last meeting: 2017, 15-10 TB)

Just when the New York Jets thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the defending Super Bowl champions have forced them back to sleep.

Fortunately, the Jets only have to face the arguable GOAT only once this time around, as opposed to what was an annual double dose of pain bestowed by Brady and his New England compatriots. Their quadrennial get-together with Brady’s new group from Tampa Bay will serve as the Jets’ home finale. Time will tell if the Jets are ringing in the new calendar year with a positive outlook, while the Buccaneers will possibly be prepping for a Super Bowl title defense. This will mark Tampa’s second-ever visit to MetLife Stadium to play the Jets and their first since 2013.

Brady will be searching for his 30th win against the Jets, his second-best tally against any opponent, behind only the 32 victories he has tallied against the Buffalo Bills. As defending champions, the Buccaneers will open in Week 1’s traditional Thursday night spot, taking on the Dallas Cowboys at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

New York Giants, Chris Godwin
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny On the Buccaneers 

Claiming that a defending Super Bowl champion is built for a long-haul dynasty is a tried storyline, especially since so many “they’ll be back in no time” contenders (i.e. Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco) have quickly faded into obscurity. But Tampa Bay locked up several of its major pieces from the championship trek: they franchise tagged Chris Godwin and re-upped with Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Steve McLendon (obtained through the Jets’ in-season fire sale).

Mere months after they became the first team to both host and win a Super Bowl, Tampa Bay also became the first team in the salary cap era to retain all 22 of their offensive/defensive starters. Leave it to a Brady-led squad to accomplish historical firsts in the name of adding more rings, it appears.

“The bond that we had, the bond that we shared this year, it’s like no other, with the coaching staff included,” the tenured Tampa linebacker David said of the bond build during the title run, per Buccaneers team reporter Carmen Vitali. “Everybody is a real tight-knit group and that’s something I haven’t been around in a while and it’s something I definitely want to be a part of.”

Re-upping with their champions was made possible in part due to a contract restructuring on Brady’s end. Not only does his adjusted contract keep him in Tampa through the 2022 season but also saved the team $19 million in cap space.

“(Brady) has proven himself to be the ultimate competitor and delivered in every way we had imagined, helping us capture the Lombardi Trophy,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht in team statement announcing the deal. “Year after year, Tom proves that he remains one of the elite quarterbacks in this game and we couldn’t be happier to keep him in Tampa Bay as we continue to pursue our goals together.”

Of course, Brady didn’t earn his seventh title on his own. He was anchored by a strong support system headlined by Tampa’s offensive line, one that allowed only 22 sacks (fourth-best tally in the NFL) and allowed a run game headlined by Fournette and Ronald Jones to work wonders. Tristan Wirfs proved to be well worth the draft day trade-up (allowing only one sack) while blindside anchor Donovan Smith earned a contract extension.

Defensively, the Buccaneers (under ex-Jets head coach turned Tampa coordinator Todd Bowles) proved their worth long before providing a blueprint on how to neutralize Patrick Mahomes. They had the top-ranked run defense in the league (80.6 yards per game) and ranked second in the NFC in takeaways (25).

What’s New In Tampa Bay?

The Buccaneers understandably kept the adjustments to a minimum after the full retainment. They bolstered their run game through the addition of former Bengal Giovani Bernard and obtained several projects through the draft. 

Tampya used its first pick, the traditional 32nd slot assigned to the defending champion, on linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. It might’ve been easy for the Washington alum to fade into the background, especially with Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul back for another go at it, but he instead became one of Tampa’s most dangerous pass-rushing threats during the preseason.

“Joe is going to be amazing. He’s doing stuff that I’m looking at and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I would of knew that when I was a rookie,’” Pierre-Paul said of Tryon-Shoyinka, per Jenna Laine of ESPN. “He’s doing amazing stuff out there…He’s been moving since day one when he got here. From there to now, he’s been moving tremendously. He just has to stay on his feet. I had that problem myself.”

Tampa also potentially prepped for the post-Brady by drafting Florida thrower Kyle Trask in the second and opened day three with Sun Belt weapon Jaelon Darden. Scorer of 31 touchdowns during his final two seasons at North Texas, Darden is already listed as the team’s primary returner.

How to Beat Them

-Break On Through

Brady may be the greatest, but he’s still only human: the Jets’ blue, East Rutherford co-tenants proved that by raising the pressure.

Cliche as “getting to the quarterback” has become…perhaps the gridiron equivalent of “pucks on net/pucks deep“…it’s a formula that’s as true as it is tired and could take on greater importance for the aging Brady; Tampa Bay was 1-3 when Brady was sacked at least three times. The Wild Card playoff tilt against Washington was closer than it had any right to be simply because the opposing Football Team raised the pressure. Tampa’s strong blocking corps was able to handle the threat and upped its game for the rest of the postseason, allowing only three sacks en route to the hometown Super Bowl.

That’s why the Jets, in part, opted to raise their pressure game. Everyone knows, by now, about the lack of Carl Lawson. But the team has newfound faith in its front seven after the breakthroughs of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. The late addition of Shaq Lawson should help them tread water as well.

-The Best Defense…A Good (Young) Offense

By the time the Jets square off against the Buccaneers, Zach Wilson and company will (hopefully) have had 15 games to get used to each other’s talents and idiosyncrasies.

Even if the Jets are long removed from the playoff picture (again, appearing in the “In the Hunt” column on the annual playoff charts that show up near the holidays should be enough of a win at this point), beating Tampa Bay would be such a boost of confidence for the future, a realistic “throat-clearing” gesture that can put the rest of the league on notice.

To do that, the Jets should take advantage of Tampa’s defense, which could be working through the difficulties of an extended season and a Super Bowl hangover. There’s plenty of talent and experience to go around, enough to keep the Buccaneers amongst the penthouse dwellers of the NFL’s elite. But Pierre-Paul and Suh are working through their 30s while other staples like McLendon and William Gholston are no spring chickens by NFL standards either.

There’d be no better way for the Jets to light the path to a hopeful feature by using their young offense to top the defending Super Bowl champions just two days into a new calendar year. It’s up to their progress over the first 15 games to give them a chance to make such a statement.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Atlanta Falcons

London’s calling the New York Jets, who will battle the Atlanta Falcons overseas in an interconference matchup in Week 5.

The Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
The Date: Week 5, 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network (@ London, England)
The Series: Atlanta leads 7-5 (last meeting: 2017, 25-20 ATL)

American soil hasn’t been too kind to the New York Jets. Perhaps a semester abroad can do them some good.

The Jets play on a different continent for the first time since 2015, as they’ll battle the Atlanta Falcons in a British-based interconference matchup. New York won in their lone appearance in the NFL’s International Series, topping the Miami Dolphins at the rebooted Wembley Stadium.

Previous international business trips for the Jets include a visit up north to play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto back in 2009 and preseason contests in Montreal (1988) and Tokyo (2003). Atlanta, coming off a garish four-win campaign, hasn’t played overseas since 2014, when they dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker to Detroit, also at Wembley.

The Skinny On the Falcons

A new era has dawned in Atlanta. Matt Ryan is back for his 14th season as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback (the Jets have started 13 different throwers in that span) but franchise staple Julio Jones has moved on to Nashville. Atlanta also dismissed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn, each of whom was only four years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

There’s a lot of things new in Atlanta (more on that in a minute). Several franchise faces that made that Super Bowl run have vanished, but Ryan has remained eternal. Having turned 36 in May, his contract dictates that he has at least two more years left as the Falcons’ man under center. Atlanta drove that point home by refusing to name an heir apparent. The role of Ryan’s understudy is down to a competition between undrafted Felipe Franks and NFL nomad Josh Rosen.

“We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year,” new Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said after the team passed (pun intended) on several high-profile throwers at the 2021 draft, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this offense…He’s been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level. We expect that to continue this year.”

With Jones dealt away to the Titans, Ryan has found a new favorite target in Calvin Ridley, who established himself as one of the most prominent deep-ball threats for years to come with a career-best 1,374 yards. Russell Gage quietly set new personal highs in the slot and will take on full No. 2 receiver duties in Jones’ absence.

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Atlanta?

In the apparent name of building one last Super Bowl map for Ryan, the Falcons retooled this offseason. Arthur Smith takes over as head coach after turning the Titans’ offense into a juggernaut while former New Orleans rival Terry Fontenot was named the general manager. Granted their highest first-round pick since they chose Ryan third overall in 2008, the Falcons defined the concept of taking the “best player available” through the selection of tight end Kyle Pitts. The Florida alum’s other-worldly size (i.e. a jaw-dropping 83-3/8 inch wingspan) allowed the Falcons to feel comfortable in biding their time in finding Ryan’s successor.

Atlanta also underwent extensive renovations to their run game. The team bid farewell to 1,411 yards of production in the form of the Todd Gurley/Brian Hill/Ito Smith group and signed ex-division rival Mike Davis, who rose to the occasion after the Christian McCaffrey nightmare in Charlotte. In terms of protection, cap reasons forced the Falcons to let offensive line staple Alex Mack go. Matt Hennessy (brother of Jets long snapper Thomas) appears poised to take over the role, having beat out fourth-round selection Drew Dalman.

Provided Ryan remains reliable and Pitts fulfills expectations, the Falcons’ biggest issues lie on defense (which was overseen by new Jets defensive boss Jeff Ulbrich after Quinn’s firing). Atlanta also completely overhauled their safeties room (a group that included current Jet Sharrod Neasman) with free agent newcomers Duron Harmon and Erik Harris the favorites to take over. Succeeding Ulbrich is Smith’s former Nashville comrade Dean Pees, who brings two Super Bowl rings with him.

How to Beat Them

-Deploy the Royal Air Force

The Falcons’ defensive revolution was necessitated by a garish effort in the secondary, as they surrendered an NFL-worst 293 yards through the air last season. They allowed at least 300 yards in nine games, going 2-7 in such contests…five of those losses were single possession games. Their attempts to shore things up when beyond Harmon and Harris: Atlanta used second (Richie Grant) and fourth-round (San Diego State blitzer Darren Hall) picks on secondary help and also added sizable man-to-man veteran Fabian Moreau after four seasons in Washington.

Harmon, a Rutgers alum who came over from Detroit, acknowledged that while there’s a positive outlook at the Falcons’ defensive future, it’s going to take some time to develop chemistry.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take reps,” Harmon said in another report from Ledbetter. “Not just reps on the practice field, but reps in the film room. Reps at walk-throughs. Reps with us just getting together and talking ball. It’s going to take time.”

Zach Wilson thus has an early opportunity to air the ball out against a fledgling unit on a stage that all eyes of the football-loving nation(s) will be watching. If the Jets can take advantage of this opportunity, it can help Wilson and their own developing offense generate some early momentum in a nationally televised game.

-Melt Matty

It becomes a bit more difficult with the loss of Carl Lawson, but the Jets should oblige Ryan’s request to prove he still has enough in the tank. Despite several question marks surrounding the Dirty Birds, they’re capable of putting up big numbers of both the fantasy and physical scoreboards at a moment’s notice with the offensive firepower in tow.

With the Jets’ secondary likewise set to go through their own transitional period…especially with matchups against the weaponry of Carolina, Tennessee, and Atlanta on the docket in the early going…upping the pressure against a 36-year-old quarterback will be more important than ever. Over the past two seasons, Atlanta is 2-9 when Ryan is blitzed at least 15 times.

As anyone who attended that heartbreaker against Las Vegas can attest to, the Jets had no issues blitzing under Gregg Williams’ watch (ranking sixth in blitz rate). Even with Lawson done for the year, they have the personnel to raise the heat this time around. 2020 breakouts Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers are a year older and they’ll also have Sheldon Rankins and Shaq Lawson in tow as well.

Robert Saleh is used to making the most of a makeshift pass rush, posting respectable results when the dominant forces of the San Francisco front seven were obliterated by the injury bug. Making the aging Ryan uncomfortable will be vital if the Jets hope to bring a victorious souvenir back from London.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tennessee Titans

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Tennessee lost several key offensive contributors from its recent postseason runs, including current New York Jets WR Corey Davis.

The Opponent: Tennessee Titans
The Date: Week 4, October 3, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)
The Series: Tennessee leads 25-19-1 (last meeting: 2018, 26-22 TEN)

Corey Davis earned 984 yards on 65 receptions for the Tennessee Titans last season. A bout with COVID-19 held the fifth pick of the 2017 draft just short of his first career four-digit yardage season. Davis played a major role in each of Tennessee’s last three playoff trips, two of which have seen them win at least one game.

Somehow, Davis got lost in the Nashville fold, leading Titans management to label him expendable.

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight…only three teams have partaken in more playoff games since 2017…has been driven by the breakouts of several explosive skill players, including Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Jonnu Smith, and, of course, Davis. That group…minus Davis and the New England-bound Smith…is now joined by Julio Jones, who is looking to regain his All-Pro reputation after his last season in Atlanta was decimated by injury.

Tennessee will make only its second visit to MetLife Stadium for a Jets game. They last stopped by in December 2015, a 30-8 Jets victory.

The Skinny on the Titans

Following their heartbreaking visit to the AFC title game after the 2019 season, the Titans broke the 10-win ceiling for the first time since 2008, likewise ending their division title drought. Alas, they had nothing to show for it in the postseason, as a first-round exit at the hand of Baltimore awaited.

The Titans’ current landscape and depth could perhaps best be described as top-heavy. Tannehill is backed up by Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley. Henry’s top spell option is Darrynton Evans, a third-round pick who was limited to 54 yards in an injury-plagued rookie year. They’ll once again be must-see television…as long as they stay healthy.

So what’s been the big problem in Tennessee? The Titans have learned the hard way that defense still wins championships. After losing their chance at the Super Bowl by surrendering a two-possession lead in just over five minutes against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee ranked at or near the bottom in most major defensive categories. The team did muster 15 interceptions…third-best in the AFC…but one of the leaders, Malcolm Butler, has moved on to Arizona.

Despite their lack of depth, the Titans are likely the unanimous favorite in the reeling AFC South, at least until the Indianapolis Colts find a proven quarterback. Houston has far too much to prove, while it’s going to take a lot more than the arrival of Trevor Lawrence for the Jacksonville Jaguars to become relevant again.

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Tennessee?

In bidding farewell to their offensive depth, the Titans sought to bolster the weak defense. Before Jones arrived late, their marquee addition was former Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. The ex-Steeler is coming off an ACL tear but was nonetheless bestowed an $82.5 million contract to help solve their issues. Dupree was removed from the physically unable to perform list last week and has begun practicing.

“Anytime you get paid to pass rush, you go ahead and get sacks and make big plays in the run game, be an all-around player,” Dupree said of his role in his new home in a June episode of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “You don’t just come in just to be a one-trick pony and just do pass rush. You’ve got to be able to be a tone-setter on the edge, as well, swarming to the ball, stopping the run, evolving your teammates, getting everybody hyped up.”

In addition to Dupree, the Titans also welcomed Denico Autry to bolster the pass rush after three successful years with the Colts. Tennessee also opted to use their top draft pick on defensive help, welcoming Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who should fill the void Butler left behind.

Though well accomplished…Tannehill has become a reliable starter, Henry is a downright historic, game-changing rusher, Brown and Jones should be a deadly aerial pair…the Titans’ offense has something to prove. Coordinator Arthur Smith earned a head coaching job in Atlanta for his work over the past two seasons, leaving tight ends coach Todd Downing to take over. Downing previously won Pro Football Focus’ Quarterbacks Coach of the Year Award for his work with Derek Carr in Oakland.

New York Giants, Caleb Farley
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

How to Beat Them

-Jump the Defense

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight is reminiscent of their turn-of-the-century heyday. Back then, they had Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Derrick Mason. Nowadays, it’s Tannehill, Henry, and Brown/Jones pairing.

But there’s a difference: the former group’s offensive fireworks were accentuated by the equally effective defensive work of Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle.

The Jets’ mission is thus relatively simple in the theory that they must force the Titans’ defense to win the game. By the time Tennessee comes to visit, the Jets will have had three games to build offensive chemistry. That’s obviously not the most experience together, but it can be enough to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that was already dealing with issues. They can’t let the Titans’ offensive arsenal decide the game.

-Take a Passing Interest

What Tannehill has been able to do in Nashville is inspiring and deserves to be recognized. After a seemingly endless streak of proverbial make-or-break seasons in Miami, Tannehill has forged a long-term NFL path as the Titans’ franchise quarterback.

Yet, he can’t fully bear the load of an offensive box score. Since he entered the league in 2012, Tannehill teams are 4-18 when he throws at least 40 passes. The Titans have taken note…only three of those instances have come in Tennessee.

Forcing Tannehill to win the game obviously then leads to containing Henry, the defending Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher. The Jets’ run defense should enjoy a boost from the return of Kyle Phillips, one of the team’s top run defenders during his 2019 debut before injuries ate up his sophomore season. Former Robert Saleh pupil Ronald Blair should likewise help keep the run game grounded, as he was one of San Francisco’s top rush defenders off the edge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Denver Broncos

Week 3 sees the New York Jets made a trip to the Rockies to battle the Denver Broncos, who are also facing a lengthy playoff drought.

The Opponent: Denver Broncos
The Dates: Week 3, September 26, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
The Series: Denver leads 21-16-1 (last meeting: 2020, 37-28 DEN)

Much like Elaine Benes’ heartbreaking revelation that she was turning into her incompetent friend George Costanza, the Denver Broncos may be coming to a similar epiphany of depression: they’re slowly transforming into the New York Jets.

Denver’s extended Super Bowl hangover…they haven’t reached the NFL postseason since their triumph over Carolina in Super Bowl 50…is only at five years compared to the Jets’ five-plus decades. That postseason drought, however, is tied for second-worst in the league (Arizona and Cincinnati are likewise shamed) behind only the Jets’ decade-long disappearance. What’s particularly troubling in Denver is the fact that their post-Super Bowl rut has stationed them at the bottom of the NFL’s standings. An active streak of four straight losing seasons is their longest such since a nine-year tally mostly accumulated during their AFL days. The 23 wins gained in that span best only four other teams.

The Broncos are a franchise in flux, cursed with both a quarterback controversy and a dominant thrower stationed in a divisional rival’s camp (Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City) with no end to his reign in sight. Head coach Vic Fangio is entering his third season, the proverbial make-or-break campaign, with only a dozen wins under his belt. A once-proud defense is struggling to regain its footing.

Their matchup against the Jets is the conclusion of an intriguing September slate. The Broncos have a prime opportunity to start 3-0 as a Week 2 matchup in Jacksonville is sandwiched by showdowns against the reeling New York franchises. Gang Green’s visit will serve as their 2021 home opener.

Denver and New York will square off for the second straight season. A Thursday night get-together, won by Denver in a 37-28 final, was overshadowed by late extracurriculars said to be exacerbated by ousted defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Broncos

Quarterbacks old and new have taken center stage in Denver’s endeavors of the new decade. Life after Peyton Manning proved to be too much for franchise legend John Elway, who stepped out of the general manager role over this offseason, passing the affair over to George Paton, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office.

Paton raised the heat on incumbent franchise thrower Drew Lock by acquiring brief Jet Teddy Bridgewater for a day three pick. Bridgewater is by far one of the most inspiring stories in recent NFL memory: last season saw him return to the brotherhood of NFL starting quarterbacks in Carolina after suffering a devastating non-contact injury in Vikings camp in 2016. Paton is very familiar with Bridgewater’s work, as he was the assistant general manager when Minnesota made him a first-round pick in 2014.

Lock is in a precarious position as he, like Fangio, enters his third season in the Rockies with a lot to prove. He tied for the league lead in interception with Carson Wentz (15) last season and is threatening to become the latest failed franchise project in the post-Manning era (joining washouts like Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian). The Missouri alum ended the year on a strong note, posting a 92.1 passer rating over his last four games, but the upcoming preseason slate will be crucial for him to prove can still be a long-term solution for an NFL franchise.

The ultimate shame about Denver’s quarterback issues is that they have a strong, skilled arsenal to work with. Courtland Sutton missed all but two games in 2020 due to a torn ACL, but the Broncos enjoyed promising showings from Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and tight end Noah Fant. Elsewhere in the backfield, the team lost Phillip Lindsay to Houston but is set to welcome back accomplished veteran Melvin Gordon.

Defensively, the team is set to welcome back franchise face Von Miller, who returns from a devastating peroneal tendon injury that kept him out of the 2020 season entirely.  Bradley Chubb rose to the occasion in Miller’s absence, earning his first Pro Bowl nomination and approval on his fifth-year option. The Jets felt Chubb’s wrath firsthand, as Sam Darnold was victimized for 2.5 sacks in the aforementioned Thursday night get-together.

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Denver?

The Broncos had an early draft pick to work with, choosing to use the ninth overall pick on Alabama defender Patrick Surtain II. His arrival was part of an expensive renovation project in the Denver secondary, as the Broncos bestowed over $65 million in guaranteed money to Justin Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, and Ronald Darby.

At $61 million over four seasons, Simmons (Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked safety in 2021 and earner of 16 interceptions since his 2016 entry) is now the highest-paid safety in football. Once Fuller was let go from Chicago, reuniting with Fangio, his former defensive coordinator with the Bears, was a de facto no-brainer. Fuller was added on a one-year deal worth nearly $10 million, it’s clear that Denver expects a lot of him in this prove-it year.

After Surtain’s selection, the Broncos also added Javonte Williams in the second round. The North Carolina alum shared the Tar Heels’ rushing duties with fellow rookie and current Jet Michael Carter. With Gordon in the latter part of his two-year deal, Denver could begin a transition plan that would make Williams their ground man of the future.

How to Beat Them

-Corral the QB

The Jets’ pass rush has a brilliant opportunity to show how far they’ve come from the depths of the 2020 season. That nationally televised loss against the Broncos let America know just how far the Jets had fallen. They failed to take down Denver third-stringer Brett Rypien at any point during the night, letting up a whopping 37 points and 359 yards of offense.

Listing pressure on the quarterback as a key to victory is a football cliche, perhaps the football equivalent of “pucks deep“. But when you’re facing a team that’s dealing with uncertainty in the most important role in football, dealing with a battle that could well extend into the regular season, the pressure becomes more important than ever. The Jets spent this offseason further bolstering a pass rush that was one of the rare silver linings of a 2020 season. If there’s any unit on their current depth chart that can be considered “elite”, that’s it.

Week 3 could also be a breakout for the New York pass rush because of Denver’s issues on the offensive line. Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season and was later released after suffering a torn Achilles in May. Another former Bear, Bobby Massie, is expected to take over. Division III standout Quinn Meinerz should also raise a little heat on incumbent center Lloyd Cushenberry. Granted an opportunity to build long-term momentum, the Jets must take advantage.

-Neutralize the Weaponry

Denver has stockpiled several offensive weapons that the quarterback, be it Bridgewater, Lock, or someone from the 2022 draft class, could work wonders with. The Jets found out about the group’s potential the hard way last fall: going up against Rypien, an undrafted second-year man making his first NFL start, Patrick tallied 113 yards on six clutch receptions, while Jeudy literally stole his first NFL touchdown from Pierre Desir.

The showdown against Denver will be one of the Jets’ biggest challenges in the early going, especially with Sutton’s potential return to the lineup. But with so many areas to improve after the horrors of 2020, it was almost a guarantee that one or more areas of the roster were going to be neglected. That turned out to be the secondary, which is set to see Bless Austin and Bryce Hall headlined at cornerback. Projected top strong safety Ashtyn Davis is already out for Week 1, while rookies and undrafted journeymen are expected to receive major snaps.

This visit against Denver presents a major opportunity for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to show their impact. Whether the Jets capitalize remains, as always, the question.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags