The New York Jets rose to the occasion in their home opener vs. Miami. Can they string together consecutive solid performances in the Meadowlands against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The New York Jets Week 4 contest is upon us. They’ll host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in a game between two teams that have turned heads to begin the 2017 season. When these two met in 2015, Gang Green came out on top 28-23. Things have changed since, so don’t expect the same to happen again.
The Jets played out of their minds in Week 3. They held the Dolphins to 225 total yards, 1/12 on third down conversions and picked off Jay Cutler twice. John Morton’s group had themselves a day as well. They racked up 336 yards, averaged 5.7 yards per play and edged Miami in the possession battle by over 13 minutes.
Jacksonville produced a beatdown of their own across the pond. They defeated Baltimore 44-7 and looked flawless in all three phases. Their offense finished with 410 yards, six yards per play and 24 first downs. The defense limited the Ravens to a mere 186 yards and turned them over three times.
Looking at this matchup on paper, the Jaguars have the advantage despite being on the road. This team is different from what they were in 2016 as Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin seem to have brought a winning mentality. The Jets are the dogs, but like last week, this game is absolutely winnable. Here are New York’s three keys to victory.
Next: 3. Attack the slot
3. Attack the slot
Jacksonville’s strength through the first three weeks is their secondary. Sophomore Jalen Ramsey and the new man in town A.J. Bouye are producing at a phenomenal rate. The tandem has combined for two interceptions, eight pass deflections, and 19 tackles. On Pro Football Focus, Ramsey is the highest rated cornerback with an 89.4 overall grade and Bouye is 23rd with an 81.5. Josh McCown would be hard pressed to test either of them.
Where the Jaguars can be beaten through the air is in the slot. It isn’t necessarily a weakness, but it’s certainly the most vulnerable area of their secondary. Aaron Colvin is the team’s primary nickel and he’s off to a slower start than last season. In 2016, the Oklahoma Sooner averaged a tremendous 0.78 yards per coverage snap, which ranked fifth out of the 52 slot corners on PFF. To begin this year, he has an overall grade of 67.5 with a 69.7 in coverage.
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The Jets have multiple wideouts who can work out of the slot. Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Kerley and Robby Anderson each have speed and the ability to catch the ball in traffic. Gang Green’s ideal matchup is any of these three against Colvin. It won’t go their way 100 percent of the time, although the odds are better there than throwing at Ramsey or Bouye on the outside.
Next: 2. Give Brent Qvale help
2. Give Brent Qvale help
New York hasn’t kicked off 2017 with strong right tackle play. After a modest season opener in Buffalo, Brandon Shell got toasted by Khalil Mack in Week 2 and bullied by Cameron Wake in Week 3. He’s listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury, so Brent Qvale will most likely step in. The 2014 undrafted free agent is being thrown in the fire vs. ‘Sacksonville’ who leads the league in that department with 13. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash is very creative in rushing the passer.
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Calais Campbell is used as a tackle and end in Wash’s 4-3 system. The 31-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down as he has already totaled 4.5 sacks.
Like Campbell, Malik Jackson can also line up both inside and out. He hasn’t been as effective as CC in getting after the quarterback, but 1.5 sacks in three games aren’t too shabby. Youngsters Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue have combined for four sacks and three forced fumbles strictly coming off the edge.
What the Jets can do is throw one of the tight ends on Qvale’s side. Austin Seferian-Jenkins showcased his potential in the passing game, however keeping McCown off the turf is more important this week. If Eric Tomlinson can suit up, he has the chance to be an unsung hero. He might honestly be New York’s best pass-blocking tight end. Nonetheless, leaving Qvale on an island vs. this bunch is a terrible idea.
Next: 1. Dominate up front
1. Dominate up front
The Jets hammered the Dolphins predominately because of their front-seven. Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams finally played up to their elite level. We didn’t see that in the first two weeks. Kony Ealy and Jordan Jenkins are continuing to fly under the radar even without Josh Martin healthy to help chime in. And most importantly, Demario Davis was a man possessed producing both against the run and in coverage.
Sunday will be a similar task. Jacksonville has a running back just as explosive as Jay Ajayi in Leonard Fournette. The rookie is off to a scorching start pounding through some of the NFL’s tougher defenses. He has 199 yards and three touchdowns on 57 carries with eight catches for 66 yards. The LSU product is doing his part to get the enormous monkey off of Blake Bortles‘ back.
The Jaguars’ offensive line is a unit Gang Green can manhandle. Center Brandon Linder has been the lone impressive piece. PFF hasn’t been friendly to guards Patrick Omameh and A.J. Cann with overall grades of 58.2 and 39.6, respectively. Second-round pick Cam Robinson has an abysmal 41.4 and right tackle Jermey Parnell has a 62.6. If New York’s big boys perform like they did in the home opener, it’ll be a long day for Bortles and company.