These five particular matchups on the NY Jets’ 2021 schedule will be problematic for Mike LaFleur’s offense.
Week 3: Broncos FS Justin Simmons vs. Jets QB Zach Wilson
In yesterday’s breakdown analyzing mismatches in the New York Jets defense’s favor, we identified the safety duo of Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner‘s battles against young quarterbacks (particularly Trevor Lawrence, since he is the only surefire rookie starter on the schedule) as a favorable matchup due to the savvy pairing’s excellent track record in coverage against young quarterbacks. Typically, inexperienced passers have a rough time against good defensive backs who know how to win the mental battle with the man under center.
One safety on the Jets‘ schedule who may be capable of having major success against Zach Wilson is Denver’s Justin Simmons. The former third-round pick has developed into one of the best all-around safeties in the league and has the smarts to expose a tenderfoot signal-caller.
Simmons has put together a good track record against rookie quarterbacks over the past two years. Across four games against rookie starters from 2019-20 – two against Justin Herbert, one against Tua Tagovailoa, and one against Gardner Minshew – Simmons recorded two interceptions and three pass breakups. Overall, he was targeted 16 times and allowed 10 completions for just 70 yards, a paltry 4.4 yards per target.
In all four performances against Simmons and the Broncos, the rookie quarterback threw for fewer yards than his season average. Simmons kept the lid on tight, never giving the youngsters any game-breakers over the top as Denver did not allow a single completion of 40+ yards across the four games.
Some other top-notch safeties to look out for on the Jets’ schedule include Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer, Cincinnati’s Jessie Bates, and New Orleans’ Marcus Williams.
Week 9: Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Jets TEs
The Colts did a great job of neutralizing opposing tight ends in 2020. They tied for the fewest touchdowns allowed to tight ends (3) and also allowed the fourth-fewest yards per target (6.2) and eighth-fewest yards per game (45.0 per game) to the position.
Superstar linebacker Darius Leonard played a major role in that success, consistently locking down tight ends in coverage. When covering tight ends, Leonard allowed 8-of-12 throws in his direction to be completed for 77 yards – an average of just 5.5 yards per game over 14 contests. Leonard allowed the same number of first-down completions to tight ends as he had pass breakups against tight ends (3).
In 2020, the Jets’ tight ends combined for the third-fewest receiving yards of any tight end unit in the league, compiling a highly uninspiring 409 yards (25.6 per game). With their only major offseason addition being Tyler Kroft – who has averaged 11.8 yards per game in his career – it does not seem like the position is going to get much better in the passing game barring a resurgence from Chris Herndon.
Expect Leonard to completely neutralize the Jets’ tight ends, putting pressure on the wide receivers and running backs to carry the passing attack (fortunately, the Jets offense should have one very favorable WR-vs-CB matchup against Indianapolis).
Weeks 10/18: Bills EDGE Mario Addison vs. Jets LT Mekhi Becton
This isn’t necessarily a “mismatch,” but it’s a matchup that went in the Bills’ favor last year as veteran defensive end Mario Addison enjoyed a couple of solid games against Mekhi Becton. It’s up to the second-year man to prove that he can learn from what he saw on tape and come back prepared for the wily old-timer.
Over two games against the Jets last year, the 33-year-old Addison played every single one of his 74 total defensive snaps on the right side of the defensive line, opposite Becton. Across those two bouts, Addison collected seven pressures on 46 pass-rush snaps, an outstanding rate of 15.2% (for reference, Carl Lawson’s elite season average in 2020 was 14.6%).
Addison beat Becton for a sack in Week 1 and contributed to another sack in Week 7 (he didn’t get official credit for it, but Addison beat Becton around the corner and brought Sam Darnold down by the legs in a sack that featured three Bills defenders).
How Becton can adjust to Addison in year No. 2 will be an excellent barometer for the blue-chip left tackle’s progress.
Week 12: Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves vs. Jets WR Corey Davis
Vernon Hargreaves has struggled mightily throughout his NFL career, never living up to his billing as the 11th overall pick in 2016. He’s given up a passer rating of 110.1 over five professional seasons, coughing up 16 touchdowns compared to only three touchdowns. The Florida product allowed a career-high 117.5 passer rating in 2020.
Those numbers should lead you to believe that Hargreaves would be a favorable matchup for the Jets’ top wideout, Corey Davis, but Hargreaves actually has Davis’ number.
Across four matchups from 2019-20, Davis saw seven targets against Hargreaves’ coverage. He caught four of those targets for only 21 yards (3.0 per target) and two first downs (28.6% rate). Overall, Davis averaged a measly 37.3 yards per game with zero touchdowns against Hargreaves’ teams.
As examined, Davis tended to perform equally well against elite cornerbacks and poor ones in the 2020 season. He did not beat up on bad cornerbacks like Hargreaves quite as much as you would like (although he certainly did still cook them for the most part), but he did an excellent job of outperforming expectations against top-tier competition.
The Jets will have a lot of advantages when they take the field against Houston in Week 12 (as will most teams). Perhaps Hargreaves’ uncanny edge over Davis can serve as an equalizer for the Texans.
Week 14: Saints EDGE Cameron Jordan vs. Jets RT George Fant
George Fant displayed a well-defined set of strengths and weaknesses as a pass protector in his first season with the Jets. He can handle smaller, speedier rushers who look to win around the edge quite well. But stronger, more physical rushers who look to win with power or to the inside? Those players are his nemeses.
In Week 14, Fant and the Jets will face one of the league’s best power-rushing edge defenders in Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Jordan operates off the left side of the defensive line, matching up against right tackles. He had 56 pressures from the left side in 2020, which ranked fourth among edge defenders.
That was actually a down year for Jordan. Here is where Jordan has ranked at his position in pressures from the left side over the past few years:
- 2020: 4th (56 left-side pressures)
- 2019: 3rd (77)
- 2018: 2nd (65)
- 2017: 7th (59)
- 2016: 2nd (72)
- 2015: 7th (52)
A 287-pounder with long arms, big hands, and plenty of strength, Jordan is perfectly built to expose Fant’s weaknesses. He plays with excellent leverage and uses his skill in that area to dominate as a bull rusher.
This one spells major trouble.
If Morgan Moses is the Jets’ right tackle in this game instead of Fant, this matchup might not be as catastrophic. The long and powerful Moses tends to do a better job against rushers like Jordan than Fant.
On the contrary, left-side speed rushers will be a bigger issue for the Jets if Moses is swapped in for Fant. Some of these players on their schedule include Carolina’s Brian Burns, Jacksonville’s Josh Allen, and Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett. Fant matches up better against players of that ilk than Moses does.
Moses would have the edge over Fant against Jordan and other powerful left-side defensive ends like Miami’s Emmanuel Ogbah and Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham.