For the first time in a decade, the New York Jets (0-1) are meeting the New England Patriots (0-1) on much more level ground as they meet on Sunday afternoon in Week 2 action.
The Patriots’ grip on the AFC East has significantly loosened since Tom Brady’s departure while the Buffalo Bills have become a force. Meanwhile, the Jets are trying, once again, to pull off a rebuild in which they can find a way to enter the contending conversation.
New England is still the favorite on Sunday at MetLife Stadium to defeat the Jets, but a promising second half against the Carolina Panthers indicated that Gang Green could be a bit of a pest this season.
Here are some things to watch for this Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Zach vs. Mac
It’s a battle of rookie quarterbacks making their second-career starts on Sunday as No. 2 pick Zach Wilson squares off against Patriots passer and No. 15 pick Mac Jones.
Jones dropped his NFL debut against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, though he put together a strong showing in which he completed 74.4% of his passes for 284 yards and a touchdown. He also started studying the Jets immediately after that loss to the Dolphins.
“I mean, it’s not fun to lose, so just learning from what we could have done better is definitely just the only thing you can do really,” Jones said (h/t Boston Herald). “You can sit there and feel bad for yourself for a little bit because that’s human, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Or you’re in the wrong profession. But you just got to move on; the 24-hour rule — just after 24 hours.”
As for Wilson, he overcame a difficult first half that featured an interception and three sacks to show flashes of brilliance in the Jets’ 19-14 loss to Carolina. While he was taken down six times on the day, the 22-year-old showed plenty of grit, rebounding to throw two touchdowns to Corey Davis in the second half while making some athletic, pinpoint throws.
“He’s a tough dude. He got hit a lot,” Davis said. “To see how he reacted, no frustration, no anger, just poised. He was leading us, he showed a lot of heart. We want guys that play hard, no quit. That’s what he is.
“Zach’s a great quarterback. It will take time for us to jell and get on the same accord. I think it happened over camp — not just us, the offense as a whole. There’s still a lot of improvement to go.”
The Jets’ offensive line was once again a liability on Sunday; something that will only create more anxiety around Wilson’s development as the franchise’s savior at quarterback.
They yielded six sacks, allowed Wilson to get hit 10 times, and the young passer was pressured on 46% of his dropbacks.
Even more bad news came when it was revealed that second-year left tackle Mekhi Becton dislocated his kneecap in Week 1 and will miss at least four-to-six weeks. That number could increase if surgery is needed.
It leaves the Jets scrambling to fulfill a unit that is already a major question mark.
Starting right tackle George Fant will slot into Becton’s spot while Morgan Moses, who lost out on the right tackle job to Fant, will take over at the position. It’s not going to be easy, either.
“It’s very tough, man. It’s like a pitcher switching to your left hand, trying to do all of that,” Fant said of the position change. “I would think it’s more technique, flipping everything in you remind. For myself, it’s the hand placement. Especially when you work so long, the whole offseason at a certain position trying to get it down.
“Things happen, things change, you have to adjust and keep working it. It is definitely a hard transition to make from right to left.”