Robert Saleh, NY Jets
Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Can the New York Jets offensive line thwart the Carolina Panthers’ pass rush?

The strength of the Carolina Panthers’ defense is its pass rush. If Zach Wilson and the New York Jets are going to have success with long-developing passing concepts, they will need the offensive line to hold up.

Brian Burns had a breakout season for the Panthers last year as he tied for seventh among edge rushers with 57 pressures. Carolina formed a superb edge duo by adding Haason Reddick to play opposite Burns. Reddick had 56 pressures for Arizona last season.

Mekhi Becton and the Jets’ right tackle – either Morgan Moses or George Fant – need to stay solid in pass protection against that duo.

Second-year defensive tackle Derrick Brown – the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft – is looking to forge a second-year breakout after improving gradually throughout his rookie season. The Jets’ interior trio of Greg Van Roten, Connor McGovern, and rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker could have their hands full with Brown if he proves to be a progressed player when he takes the field on Sunday.

How will the New York Jets disperse targets at wide receiver?

The Jets will be without Jamison Crowder and may also be without Keelan Cole.

Missing two of their key wideouts in the season opener, the Jets will have extra targets to spread around.

Denzel Mims could be one of the prime beneficiaries. He appeared poised to be buried on the depth chart going into the year but now may have the opportunity to seize control of the WR3 role behind Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.

Pure slot man Braxton Berrios and athletic gadget weapon Jeff Smith round out the wide receiver room. Both players are likely to see at least a handful of reps. Berrios was extremely efficient as a limited-snap player near the end of 2020. Smith was an efficient rusher and screen-game receiver in the 2021 preseason.

Can the New York Jets’ young cornerbacks hold up?

New York enters Week 1 with a seven-man cornerback group that has combined for nine NFL starts, all coming from Bryce Hall (7) and Javelin Guidry (2) in their rookie seasons last year.

That exceedingly young unit will be tasked with covering the duo of D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, one of only two wide receiver pairings in the league to each eclipse 1,000 yards last season.

The Jets will do everything in their power to ease the load on their young corners. They will blitz at a low rate to provide extra reinforcements in the back end, play vanilla zone coverages to reduce their mental stress, and potentially even rotate players in and out of the game to give players rest and create better matchups.

It is impossible to hide forever, though. Carolina’s offense will likely do whatever it can to test out the Jets’ young cornerbacks. If they cannot find an opening to attack deep, they will force them to come up and make tackles in the screen game and run game.

How dominant will the New York Jets defensive line be?

If there is one thing the Jets cannot win this game without, its a great performance by the defensive line. New York’s defensive front is its greatest strength, whereas Carolina’s offensive line is its greatest weakness. The Jets will not be victorious if they fail to take full advantage of this favorable matchup.

Carolina has subpar starters at left tackle (Cameron Erving), left guard (Pat Elflein), center (Matt Paradis), and right guard (Dennis Daley). Their only saving grace is stalwart right tackle Taylor Moton.

New York is loaded with defensive linemen who have produced with efficiency levels ranging from good to elite: Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins, Foley Fatukasi, and Shaq Lawson will be a major problem for the Panthers’ offensive front. Bryce Huff may be on the verge of a second-year leap as well.

Every Jets fan knows how much Sam Darnold struggles under pressure. If the Jets defensive line can clobber Carolina’s offensive line to the extreme extent that Darnold often played behind in New York, it is going to be difficult for the Panthers to move the ball.

Will the New York Jets be able to stop the Carolina Panthers’ run game?

The Panthers know they are overmatched in the trenches on offense. They also know the Jets are starting two undersized rookie linebackers who are converting from safety and that the Jets play an aggressive style of defense that leaves them vulnerable to vacating lanes in the run game.

With those things in mind, Carolina is likely to lean heavy on Christian McCaffrey and the run game.

McCaffrey hitting the second level against rookie ‘backers Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen is a nightmarish sight for Jets fans to imagine. If Sherwood and Nasirildeen cannot consistently bring McCaffrey down, his rushing productivity will create favorable situations for Darnold, protecting him from the obvious passing situations where the Jets’ pass rushers can pin their ears back and go get him with no restraint.

Cool Your Jets Podcast Episode

On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, Ben Blessington and Michael Nania preview the New York Jets-Carolina Panthers battle with a deep dive into all of the specific player-versus-player matchups that will determine the outcome of the game.

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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