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Familiar faces on New York Jets’ 2020 schedule: Games 1-8

Kelvin Beachum
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

These former Jets will get their chance at vengeance from Weeks 1-8 of 2020.

Week 1: at Buffalo Bills

The Jets also play the Bills in Week 7, so we’ll save some of the other connections for that section.

Buffalo just recently added a longtime Jet to its roster – guard Brian Winters.

Winters, drafted 72nd overall by the John Idzik-led Jets in 2013, was the longest-tenured member of the team at the time he was released two days ago.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 03: Brian Winters #67 and Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets walk back to the huddle in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 03, 2017 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The New York Jets defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 38-31. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The fact that Winters lasted for so long as a surefire starter on the Jets’ offensive line is an indictment of the unit’s severe lack of talent over that span. In 2019, Winters allowed 21 pressures on 313 protection snaps, a rate of 6.7% that ranked at the 18th percentile among qualified guards. He placed at the 40th percentile in the stat in 2018 and the 19th percentile in 2017.

With that said, Winters played with a noticeable amount of tenacity and pride that consistently stood out as superior to the linemen around him. He has an affinity for playing through the whistle and often made sure to help up his quarterback even if he was not the one responsible for the hit.

Jon Feliciano, who started all 17 games at right guard for the Bills in 2019, is expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks (from July 31) with a torn pectoral muscle. This will thrust Winters into the starting lineup for a Week 1 battle against the same defensive line he practiced against on a weekly basis in 2019.

Week 2: vs. San Francisco 49ers

For the second consecutive week, the Jets will face one of the interior linemen that played an integral role in their massive offensive line struggles a year ago. This time, it’s Tom Compton.

Compton, who signed with the Jets in March while Mike Maccagnan was still at the helm, replaced the injured Brian Winters at right guard in Week 10. He would start five games (Weeks 11-15) until missing the final two games with a calf injury.

Somehow, Compton found a way to represent a downgrade compared to Winters.

Compton allowed 17 pressures over 204 snaps in protection, a rate of 8.3% that was the worst out of 77 qualified guards.

Compton is currently projected to start at right guard for San Francisco. The 49ers’ former starter at the position, Michael Person, called it quits after an eight-year career that culminated with a Super Bowl appearance in which he allowed only one pressure.

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Week 3: at Indianapolis Colts

While no current player on the Colts roster has spent time with the Jets, Indianapolis does have a pair of coaches who rocked Jets colors at one point.

Colts head coach Frank Reich started seven games at quarterback for the Jets way back in 1996. Over his seven games as a starter, Reich completed 146-of-273 passes for 1,837 yards (6.7 per attempt), 12 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions (68.0 passer rating). Reich’s average of 262.4 passing yards per game as a starter stands as the highest in franchise history (obviously, a “small sample size alert” applies here), which is entirely because his 39.0 attempts per game is also a team record (due to the team constantly trailing).

Reich led the Jets to their only win of the 1996 season, a 31-21 victory in Arizona that snapped an eight-game skid to start the season. Keyshawn Johnson snagged a 34-yard score from Reich, while three Jets scored one rushing touchdown apiece: Richie Anderson, Reggie Cobb, and Adrian Murrell.

The Jets won their first meeting against Reich in Week 6 of 2018, a 42-34 victory that put the Jets at 3-3. As of today, that is the most recent time that the Jets were a .500+ football team.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 14: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets shakes hands with head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts after their42-34 win at MetLife Stadium on October 14, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

When he was San Diego’s offensive coordinator in 2014, Reich’s Chargers offense dropped 439 yards and 31 points on the Jets in a Week 5 shutout victory.

Jason Michael, currently the tight ends coach in Indy, also had a cup of coffee with the Jets. He was the team’s offensive quality control coach and quarterbacks coach in 2006, helping the offense rank 14th in points per drive (1.68) on the strength of a Chad Pennington-led passing attack that ranked 11th in passing DVOA.

In 2006, Pennington started all 16 games for the only time in his Jets career, leading the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. Despite his lackluster 17-to-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio and pedestrian 82.6 passer rating, Pennington was actually very solid, ranking seventh-best in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards over average).

Michael moved to tight ends coach in 2007, helping sixth-year Jets tight end Chris Baker record career-highs of 41 receptions and 409 yards.

Week 4: vs. Denver Broncos

Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson spent a few months on the Jets’ practice squad in 2019. Anderson has a chance to be the team’s opening-week starter at right tackle after the opt-out of Ja’Wuan James.

Edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu played 11 games with the Jets in 2018, picking up two sacks, four knockdowns, and six hurries. He appeared in 12 games for Denver in 2019, notching 3.5 sacks, two knockdowns and eight hurries.

Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has spent six seasons with the Jets over two separate stints. He served as the secondary coach in New York from 1990-94, coaching players like Ronnie Lott, Marcus Turner, Michael Brim, James Hasty, and Brian Washington. In 2007, he returned for one season as a “Special Assistant” under Eric Mangini.

Donatell’s secondaries were up-and-down. From 1990-94, the Jets ranked eighth in interceptions (93) but allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game (208.8).

Week 5: vs. Arizona Cardinals

Kelvin Beachum signed with Arizona after starting 45 games at left tackle over three seasons for the Jets from 2017-19, providing mostly-decent protection but struggling mightily in the run game. In all three seasons, Beachum ranked among the top-50% among qualified tackles in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grade but the bottom-50% in run-blocking grade.

Marcus Gilbert (a former teammate of Beachum’s in Pittsburgh) was projected to start for Arizona at right tackle after missing the entire 2019 season, but he recently decided to opt out of the 2020 season. With D.J. Humphries penciled-in at left tackle, Beachum may start on the right side for the Cardinals. He has not played a snap at right tackle since 2013.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 22: Kelvin Beachum #68 of the New York Jets spikes the football after his team scored a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Week 6: at Los Angeles Chargers

There are no players on the Chargers roster who will be seeking revenge against the Jets, but Los Angeles’ head honcho, Anthony Lynn, was a big part of the coaching staff in New York just a few years ago.

Lynn was the Jets’ running backs coach throughout the entirety of Rex Ryan’s six-year stint in New York (2009-14), also spending the 2013 and 2014 seasons as the assistant head coach.

The Jets led the NFL in rush attempts per game (32.1) and rushing yards per game (137.0) over the six seasons that Lynn spent with the team. Under Lynn, LaDainian Tomlinson found late-career success, Shonn Greene proved to be a solid workhorse for two AFC Championship-caliber teams, and Bilal Powell established the base of what would become a long professional career.

In Week 6 of 2017, Lynn won his first meeting against the Jets as a head coach, a 14-7 snooze-fest.

Lynn is not the only Charger with ties to Ryan and the Jets. Projected starter Tyrod Taylor – a fort-holder for Justin Herbert – is a favorite of Ryan’s. Taylor got his first NFL starting gig for the Bills in 2015, Ryan’s first season in Buffalo. Ryan claimed that he tried to acquire Taylor from Baltimore while he was still leading the Jets.

Taylor’s most recent start against the Jets came for the Browns in Week 2 of 2018. He got off to an atrocious start in which he threw for 19 yards on his first 14 passes. That ugly performance led to a benching in favor of Baker Mayfield, who brought the Browns out of a 14-3 hole to give them their first win since Week 16 of 2016.

In Buffalo, Taylor went 3-2 in five starts against the Jets, tossing eight touchdowns and two picks.

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt had a one-year stay in New York as the Jets’ special teams coordinator in 2000. He was not retained after the Jets ranked 26th in special teams DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).

Week 7: vs. Buffalo Bills

The Jets decided to let Andre Roberts walk after an All-Pro 2018 season in which he led the NFL in yards per punt return (14.1) and ranked second in yards per kickoff return (29.4), scoring one touchdown in each phase.

After the Jets showed little interest in retaining him, Roberts walked to Buffalo with vengeance on his mind. He had a solid season, but nowhere near his 2018 peaks. Roberts ranked 17th out of 38 qualifiers with 8.0 yards per punt return and seventh out of 41 qualifiers with 26.6 yards per kickoff return, although he did not score a touchdown and recorded a long return of only 22 yards over 28 punt returns (kickoff long: 66). The Bills ranked sixth in kickoff return DVOA and 12th in punt return DVOA.

Roberts missed both of Buffalo’s meetings with the Jets in 2019, so he still has yet to take his shot at enacting revenge on Brant Boyer and company.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 15: Wide receiver Andre Roberts #19 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with teammate center Spencer Long #61 against the Houston Texans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Houston Texans won 29-22. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Week 8: at Kansas City Chiefs

By this point, there is a chance that the Jets will already have faced Winters, Compton, and Beachum – three members of the horrifying 2019 offensive line.

How’s about a fourth? After a disappointing and injury-riddled stop in New York that culminated with an ugly off-field dispute, which led to his in-season release, Kelechi Osemele could get a chance to fire back in Week 8 as a member of the Chiefs.

Kansas City’s incumbent right guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, decided to opt out on the 2020 season, leaving Osemele and Andrew Wylie as the team’s only guards with multiple seasons of starting experience.

Former Jets running back Elijah McGuire could get some carries behind Osemele. Following his release from the Jets during final cutdowns ahead of 2019, McGuire spent a brief time on Cleveland’s practice squad before hopping on with Kansas City. He did not appear in any games for the Chiefs over their Super Bowl run, but re-upped with them after the year.

McGuire’s path to the roster looked impossible earlier in the offseason, but after the opt-out of Damien Williams, there is a small chance for McGuire to sneak into the running back room if he can flash brightly.

The competition will be stiff. First-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a lock. McGuire will battle against Darrel Williams – who looked great in relief of Damien Williams last year – 2019 Chiefs sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson, and former Raiders back DeAndre Washington.

Tomorrow, we will look at the familiar faces on the Jets’ schedule from games 9-through-16.

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