The New York Jets defense is poised to succeed against these offenses
Matchups are everything in the game of football. It’s never as simple as merely comparing the raw talent level of two squads. A given team could be tailor-made to clobber one team but perfectly constructed to be destroyed by another.
Without further ado, let’s get into some of the best and worst matchups for the New York Jets on their 2022 schedule. After previously taking a look at some of the Jets offense’s best and worst matchups, today we’ll take a look at some of the best matchups for their defense.
Chicago Bears’ pass protection
The strength of the Jets’ defense is their pass rush, so when looking for enticing opponent matchups, it all starts with the offensive line. Teams that struggle to pass-protect could have a tough time against New York’s loaded defensive front.
The Bears offense gave up an NFL-high 58 sacks in 2021 (3.4 per game). Much of that was due to the pocket-presence struggles of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, but even when looking solely at the offensive line’s pass-blocking performance, things weren’t pretty. Chicago’s offensive line was deemed responsible for giving up 27 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus, which tied for the eighth-most in the league.
Making matters worse for Chicago is the fact that their offensive line seems poised to take a step back this year. The Bears lost each of their two highest-graded offensive linemen at Pro Football Focus: left tackle Jason Peters (still a free agent) and right guard James Daniels (signed with Pittsburgh). They did add solid starter Riley Reiff to take Peters’s place, but overall, it doesn’t appear this unit is set up to improve.
Another issue for Chicago’s offensive line is the status of 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins. Jenkins battled injuries and did not play much in his rookie season. He was expected to take a sizable leap in his second season, but now, reports indicate that the Bears are attempting to trade Jenkins. His struggles leave Chicago’s offensive line devoid of any talented young pieces who are waiting to break out.
Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers
After losing superstar receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders, the Packers did not make a great effort to replace Adams’s impact. Green Bay’s most notable additions at the position were free agent Sammy Watkins and second-round pick Christian Watson. While both players offer upside, neither is anything close to a sure thing.
The Packers’ top-four receivers at the moment project to be Watkins, Watson, Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb. In a league that is overflowing with wide receiver talent, that is certainly one of the least intimidating units out there, at least on paper. Cobb, Lazard, and Watkins combined for only 1,282 receiving yards last year. Adams had 1,553 by himself.
New York has a potentially potent cornerback trio in Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Michael Carter II. Reed is a veteran who offers a high floor after putting together a full season of top-notch coverage numbers in 2021. Carter II also offers a fairly high floor after a rookie year in which he excelled at avoiding mistakes.
Gardner is the X-factor as it pertains to the 2022 season. While Gardner’s long-term ceiling is limitless, he should be expected to go through some rookie-year bumps against some of the upper-echelon wideouts he will face this year. However, the Cincinnati product’s raw talent should allow him to thrive against weaker WR units in his first season – such as the Packers’ unit.
Green Bay has a strong offensive line, and, obviously, an elite quarterback. Their running back duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon is also formidable. These facets of the Packers offense will be stout challenges for the New York defense, but the Jets’ advantage in the CB-versus-WR battle could be an equalizer.
If New York’s corners can completely lock down Green Bay’s wideouts, the Jets can take away the Packers’ ability to generate explosive plays, helping to keep the game within striking distance for Zach Wilson and the offense.
Minnesota Vikings’ running backs and tight ends in the passing game
While the Jets’ linebacker unit could have major issues in the run game, the group does have the potential to be quite solid in coverage. Outside of C.J. Mosley, the Jets’ LB unit is made up almost entirely of small, fast linebackers who are more comfortable in coverage than in the run game.
Williams had an erratic 2021 season but showed many flashes of high-level traits in coverage. If he can put it all together, he’s got the talent to be one of the game’s better coverage linebackers.
The Jets clearly believe Williams can accomplish that. The team did not make an aggressive push to improve its LB unit. Plus, New York’s coaches constantly sing the praises of Williams. Even after adding Alexander, it appears the Jets still see Williams as a starter beside Mosley.
Alexander has been a top-end coverage linebacker throughout his career, consistently ranking as one of the most productive ‘backers in zone coverage. He currently projects as the Jets’ primary sub linebacker and will likely play around 30 percent of the defensive snaps if he sticks in that role.
Offenses that can run the football will punish this linebacker unit. But on the other hand, teams that do not have reliable receivers at the running back and tight end positions could be stomped out by this group’s athleticism and coverage ability.
The Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams. Their passing-game outlook at the RB and TE positions is not promising.
Minnesota’s RBs only produced one receiving touchdown last season. The Vikings’ top receiver at RB was Alexander Mattison, who ranked 35th at the position with 228 receiving yards. Bellcow back Dalvin Cook was a non-threat in the passing game, ranking 38th with 224 yards through the air while failing to catch a touchdown. This duo is set to return and the Vikings did not make any substantial additions at the position, so these numbers have a decent chance of holding up.
At TE, the Vikings enjoyed a solid season from Tyler Conklin last year, but Conklin is now a New York Jet. His absence has left Minnesota’s TE unit in shambles. The group is headlined by Irv Smith, Ben Ellefson, and Johnny Mundt. Smith is averaging only 23 yards per game in his career and just missed the entire 2021 season with a torn meniscus. He’s now dealing with a thumb injury that has his Week 1 status in question. Ellefson and Mundt combined for 1 catch in 11 games last year.
New York’s linebackers have a good shot of completely erasing the Vikings’ RBs and TEs in the passing game. If they can get that done, it would put all of the pressure on the Vikings’ wide receivers to carry the aerial attack. This could make Minnesota’s offense very predictable, which would be beneficial for New York’s cornerbacks as they attempt to contain Justin Jefferson.