3. NY Jets' defensive on-field leadership/communication
It sounds like a generic key to victory. Still, it's of utmost importance on the field in a hostile environment that the Jets' veteran players communicate with their neophyte teammates and get them to line up correctly on Sunday.
Typically, in Week 1 of an NFL season, there are blown assignments and miscommunication between teammates, usually because of rust and inexperience playing together.
The possibility of it happening to the Jets in Carolina is heightened by the reality that the team has several first-time NFL players playing significant roles.
C.J. Mosley is, in essence, re-debuting for the Jets, and he has a lot to prove to himself and the franchise that paid him like a cornerstone player.
On Sunday, Mosley will be taking the field with two rookies beside him in Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood — two college safeties who have never played a full NFL game at linebacker.
There's no doubt that Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator Joe Brady will attempt to create mismatches and confusion for the Jets' young linebackers. For New York, many of these players have never played a game with each other before.
Dynamic players like Christian McCaffrey can beat you physically all day by default, but the last thing you want to do is make his job easier by being in the wrong position. All it takes is one misstep or miscalculation by a Jets defender, and McCaffrey is off and running for an easy score.
New Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is very familiar with Joe Brady's offense. He competed against him and saw it firsthand as the Falcons defensive coordinator in 2020.
Ulbrich can prepare the Jets defenders for what they can expect on Sunday, but defensive captain C.J. Mosley will need to help steady the ship in the front seven for the Jets to avoid mental mistakes against the run and in coverage.
On the back end of the Jets defense, veteran safeties Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner will have their work cut out for them. The Jets have one of the youngest cornerback groups in the entire league.
And while the team plays what is considered a defensive-back-friendly Cover 3 type system to prevent big plays. The Jets' defensive staff will expect their young corners to man certain areas of the field and not allow receivers to get behind them.
Wideouts like Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are fully capable of taking advantage of mental lapses in coverage. Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner are going to need to get the secondary on the same page to avoid mental breakdowns and big plays down the field.