Our offense was high flying last week against the Dolphins, a team who had a fairly stout defense last year. It was a great showing after we came out of the gate a little cold in our first preseason game. Now, we will turn our sights to the Jets for the third game. In all the others, our backups managed to get significant amounts of playing time. Not this time. The 3rd game is the demo to the real thing and we should expect Cam and Co. to be on the field through the 3rd quarter.
The X-Factor: Will the next WR please stand up?
I'm not going to lie to you all, the Jets are a tough defense to play against. If there is one thing Rex Ryan knows better than feet, it's how to coach a defense, and he has made the Jets into a respectable defensive unit utilizing his hybrid 46 scheme inherited from his father, the legendary Buddy Ryan. Our WRs (and TEs) need to in top form going into this game. I'll say it now, if Louis Murphy can find open space as a 3rd WR against this defense, he deserves his start. Likewise, if Brandon LaFell plays well this game, we can really start getting excited about him as our #2.
Battle in the Air: Carolina Passing vs. Jets Defense
The Jets are lucky in the fact that they have one of the best secondaries in the entire league. Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis are a tandem that must really make offensive coordinators shudder. This will be a tough matchup. Steve Smith is likely to be able to hold his own, but we haven't really seen LaFell spark the way he did at the end of last season. He'll need every bit of spark he can in this game. Our best look at the 3rd WR spot will likely come from this game. Gettis is still battling an injury and as of this writing, I'm not sure if he is playing or not. That leaves the door open to Louis Murphy who has really taken the bull by the horns (or maybe the panther by the fangs?) when it comes to this WR battle. He has, at this point, probably moved ahead for the spot and if he can give a solid performance in this game, you can expect that the position will be his.
I'm still not really sure I like our chances though... I've already mentioned Revis (who led all CBs in most stats for the season according to Football Outsiders) and Cromartie, who bounced back as a more reliable CB last year. But sadly the Jets also have Kyle Wilson to serve as their nickle back and he could probably start for most teams. They're just stacked all around at CB and even added to their safety position by picking up LaRon Landry, probably the best safety FA of the offseason.
Trench Warfare: Panthers Run Game vs. Jets Defense
Last week, I mentioned that the run game would be a big factor in our game against the Dolphins and it certainly was much more pronounced. It also helped that a lot of the defensive starters for the Dolphins were out. I'm not certain we'll be so lucky this week against the Jets. The middle of the Jets defense is tough to run against, led by a corp composed of Sione Pouha, David Harris, and Bart Scott. Getting traction up the middle could be difficult, even more so if the Jets manage to take away our high flying passing game.
Closing Remarks: It's Not all Bad...
The Jets were one of the best defenses in the league last year. They have talent across the board and managed to improve it over the offseason with additions by Quinton Coples (whatever you may think of him) and LaRon Landry. Yeah, it'll be a tough matchup... But the real key is going to be who can crack the nut first. As good as their defense is, the Jets offense is in shambles. Their starting RT is worse than MacBurn was and it could be hard for them to get much traction going. We don't need to be dominate through out the whole game to win, but we do need to find the endzone twice, and that could likely be enough.
Overall, I think this is going to be a tough, but winnable game. (And if they put Tebow in as QB... an easy, winnable game.)