The New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins in the Week 2 home opener at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Here are the top five players to watch during the game.
The New York Jets got off to an excellent start this season, opening the season with a 48-17 rout against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Now the Jets have their sights set on their AFC East rival Miami Dolphins in their home opener on Sunday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS with Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, and Steve Tasker calling the game. Jets fans can also listen to the game on ESPN New York 98.7FM in the metro area.
The Jets went 1-1 against the Dolphins last season, defeating the Dolphins 20-6 at MetLife Stadium in Week 3 and falling to 31-28 in Miami in Week 7. Gang Green will be looking to beat the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium once again on Sunday.
Both teams feature plenty of talent in all three phases; offense, defense, and special teams. The talent on both sides plus this being an AFC East rivalry game will make for some exciting football. Here are the top five players to watch during the game.
5. Quarterback Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold‘s first game as a starting NFL quarterback got off to a shaky start, as he threw a pick-six with his first pass attempt. Fortunately, Darnold brushed himself off and settled down as the game moved along.
Darnold helped lead the Jets to a 48-17 victory against the Lions, going 16-of-21 for 198 yards and two touchdowns to go with the pick-six. The rookie signal caller showed poise and accuracy, making numerous plays in and rolling out of the pocket.
Darnold should find it much easier to communicate in Week 2 as the Jets return to MetLife Stadium for the home opener. However, he will have to be aware of the Dolphins elite edge rusher Cameron Wake and safety Reshad Jones at all times. Both players can single-handedly wreck an offensive gameplan. Darnold will need to be smart with the ball and take what the defense is giving him.
There are plenty of people already crowning Darnold as the NFL’s next great quarterback but the rookie isn’t paying attention to any of it. Darnold noted he just wants to take the season one game at a time according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Here is what Darnold had to say according to Iannazzone:
I haven’t been paying much attention, but I’m sure people are talking about how good they expect our team to be in the next few years,” Darnold said. I’m just going to continue to focus on the next game. That’s all I can control and that’s what I’m going to do every single week.”
Next: 4. Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa
4. Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa
After missing all of 2017 with a neck injury, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa made his long-awaited return to the field against the Lions and didn’t disappoint at all. Enunwa led the Jets receivers with six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Enunwa was Darnold’s go-to receiver in Week 1, as he was targeted on 43 percent of his routes. Enunwa is a physical receiver who is too big to be covered by defensive backs but too fast to be covered by linebackers. Due to his size and skills, the Jets are able to line him up in the slot and on the outside.
In 2016, Enunwa recorded 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns so he has shown he can be a top playmaker for the Jets. If Enunwa can avoid injury this season, he has a great chance at becoming the Jets top wide receiver.
On Sunday, it will be interesting to see if Enunwa can continue to build off his solid start to the season. Enunwa is a physical and reliable receiver who you can always expect to make the smart play. Darnold couldn’t say enough great things about Enunwa during an interview with Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press on Wednesday. Here is what Darnold had to say about his wide receiver according to Waszak:
“First of all, Q is a great dude, so it’s easy to develop a rapport in that way,” Darnold said. “With how smooth he is route running, he’s smooth but he’s also physical. He’s very sudden, a very quick dude. It’s awesome to be able to throw to him. The routes that he runs are very crisp, but again very violent at the same time.”
Next: 3. Wide Receiver Jermaine Kearse
3. Wide Receiver Jermaine Kearse
Darnold might have another wide receiver to throw to on Sunday as Jermaine Kearse is working his way back from an abdomen injury suffered back in August. Kearse practiced in a limited fashion before Week 1 and was close to playing but coach Todd Bowles held him out.
Kearse has logged two full practices Wednesday and Thursday this week. As of this writing, Kearse is expected to play against the Dolphins on Sunday. Getting Kearse back would strengthen an already impressive unit that includes Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Terrelle Pryor.
Kearse was arguably the Jets most consistent wide receiver last season, recording a team-high 65 catches. Kearse was second on the team in receiving yards (810) and touchdowns (5). The Dolphins did a good job on shutting down Kearse, limiting him to just four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in two games. Kearse will be looking to improve upon those numbers and dominate the Dolphins this season.
Before Kearse suffered his injury, he and Darnold worked with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates on ways for them to form a strong connection. Kearse believes his rookie quarterback is a special talent and that will help him become a great quarterback in the league. Here is what Kearse had to say according to NewYorkJets.com reporter Ethan Greenberg:
“I can remember there was a play against Washington when I didn’t think he was throwing it to me and he literally hit me in the chest,” Kearse said. “I had no choice but to catch it. That just shows his talent. He’s able to throw us open. That’s something special in a quarterback and something we’re looking forward to.”
Next: 2. Linebacker Darron Lee
2. Linebacker Darron Lee
Darron Lee was the best defensive player for the Jets in Week 1, recording seven tackles and two interceptions including one he returned for a touchdown. Lee was graded as the top linebacker by Pro Football Focus in Week 1 with a grade of 94.5.
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If the Jets defense is going to become elite in 2018, Lee will need to keep building off his stellar start to the season. Lee teams up with Avery Williamson at the inside linebacker spot and both bring different skills to the defense.
Lee is a better athlete with elite speed and can cover multiple positions. Williamson is more of a traditional inside linebacker and is considered by most as a “tackling machine”.
Lee, along with Williamson, will have the task of shutting down Dolphins running backs Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore. Both backs combined to rush for over 100 yards with Gore leading the way against the Tennessee Titans with nine rushes for 61 yards.
Lee believes the Jets defense is heading in the right direction as a defense, especially with their dominant performance against the Lions. However, it is only one game and it is time to move on to a new opponent. Here is what Lee had to say in an interview with the media after practice on Wednesday courtesy of the Media Relations Department of the Jets:
“We are past Monday and now are focusing on Miami. But it’s definitely a good stepping stone in the right direction and we want to build some consistency with that. We are just looking to improve off of that game”.
Next: 1. Safety Jamal Adams
1. Safety Jamal Adams
Jamal Adams is the heart and soul of the defense and he came out with a bang against the Lions. Adams was consistently disrupting the passing and running game, recording six tackles and his first career interception.
Adams helped the jets force five turnovers and wreck the offensive game plan for the Lions. Adams finished tied with the Dolphins safety Reshad Jones for the most run stops (26) in 2017 and continued his stellar play as a run stopper in Week 1. Adams helped the Jets defense held the Lions to under 50 rushing yards.
Once again, Adams will be lining up on the line of scrimmage to help limit Drake’s and Gore’s rushing yards. Also, Adams will have to help out in pass coverage because the Dolphins have a game breaker at wide receiver in Kenny Stills.
Stills went over 100 yards receiving with two touchdowns on just four catches. Adams is the captain of the secondary and will need to effectively communicate with the rest of “New Jack City” to shut down Stills. Adams has vowed to never miss a Pro Bowl again and he is off to a great start in 2018. He must continue to build off his Week 1 performance to earn that Pro Bowl spot he wants so much.