The trenches will decide New York Jets-Carolina Panthers
A long, hype-filled offseason comes to an end Sunday when the New York Jets head down to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers.
The main storyline of the game will undoubtedly be the duel between Zach Wilson and Sam Darnold.
Wilson will make his first career start against the man he was drafted to replace. Darnold will play his first game as a Panther against the team who just traded him away. Both players will be out to prove their worth, either for respect or revenge.
While the quarterbacks will hog the headlines, the matchup runs much deeper beyond the two signal-callers.
The Jets’ starting offensive line will get their first chance to play together after rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker missed the preseason with a pec injury. For the offense to stay on schedule, the line will have to set the tone. A methodical, clock-control approach is the best way to keep Wilson in rhythm and off the turf.
Like Vera-Tucker, rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore will also get his first action in Week 1, and the Jets figure to feed him early and often.
Moore was considered the Jets’ best offensive player throughout OTAs and training camp before injuring his quad. With Moore back in the lineup, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can finally unleash his full playbook.
In Moore’s absence, Corey Davis has established himself as Wilson’s go-to guy.
Davis was excellent in the preseason, routinely getting open both deep and underneath. Wilson looked his way often, specifically on third down, where he and Davis converted in crucial situations. When plays break down, expect Wilson to look for Davis, and expect Davis to deliver.
The Jets’ defense has had plenty of question marks (and injuries) since the start of preseason, but one matchup, in particular, appears to weigh heavily in their favor: Robert Saleh’s defensive line against the Panthers’ offensive line.
Besides right tackle Taylor Moton, the Panthers’ line is flat-out abysmal. The other four starters are largely backup-caliber, even before it was announced that starting right guard John Miller will miss the game due to COVID-19.
New York’s advantage upfront will be crucial in masking the defense’s achilles heel: its youth on the back end.
Rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen will be making their first starts at linebacker after both played safety in college. Cornerback Bryce Hall will start in just his ninth career game. The other boundary corner, yet to be announced, is likely to be a rookie. Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn, and Jason Pinnock are the three players in the mix.
In the slot, the Jets will start either Javelin Guidry (second-year undrafted free agent) or Michael Carter II (rookie fifth-round pick).
The Panthers feature a skilled crop of weapons. Their wide receiver unit is led by the 1,000-yard duo of D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson while second-round rookie Terrace Marshall is coming off of a great preseason. Most dangerous of all is, of course, Christian McCaffrey in the backfield.
Covering that group will be a tough task for the Jets’ youngsters, but if the line can pressure Darnold, the secondary may hold up just enough.
The Oklahoma Drill Podcast crew gives their keys to a New York Jets victory over the Carolina Panthers, focusing on the intricate details of the matchup from an X’s-and-O’s perspective.
Hosts Andrew, Matt, and Vitor give their offensive and defensive game plans and matchups to watch for. To wrap things up, the trio finishes with predictions for the final outcome of the game.