The New York Jets (1-2) will host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) at MetLife Stadium on Sunday at 1pm EST in their second of back to back home games. What was quickly turning into a lost season for Gang Green after an 0-2 start, suddenly turned into reason for optimism with a dominant win over the Miami Dolphins. Was last Sunday a fluke, or is this young defense finally starting to put it together? Can Josh McCown and the offense maintain this level of play, or perhaps even get better? With a chance to return to .500 and Jets legends in the house to honor Kevin Mawae, fans should be fired up about the prospect of this “tank” season suddenly having some meaning.
Todd Bowles vs. Doug Marrone
Much attention has been made during the week of the Jets almost hiring Doug Marrone back in 2015 before eventually going with Bowles. Marrone opted out of his contract with the Bills thinking he had the job here in New York, before eventually landing a gig in Jacksonville. Marrone was promoted to head coach for 2017 and so far has a young Jaguars team finally putting it together on both sides of the ball. For Bowles, his future may still be on shaky ground, but he will look to take perhaps his best coached game with the Jets to generate some positive momentum.
Stopping Leonard Fournette
The Jets front seven will need a repeat performance from last Sunday, as they played team defense to completely shut down Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins rushing attack. Players knew their assignments and stuck to their gap responsibilities, shutting down the run but also leaving quarterback Jay Cutler vulnerable on 3rd downs in the process. With Mo Wilkerson banged up and Josh Martin doubtful, shutting down Fournette could pose a challenge. Bowles may look to stack the box to shut down Fournette (and Chris Ivory) and force quarterback Blake Bortles to win the game. Although Bortles is coming off a four touchdown performance against the Ravens, he has been prone to turnovers in his early career and will make mistakes when pressured. Stopping Fournette early while forcing Bortles into 3rd and long situations will be a major key to success for the defense.
Morton must continue to evolve as an offensive coordinator
Offensive Coordinator John Morton has been just about all you could ask for in his first three games with the Jets. Morton has done a good job putting together sound offensive game plans involving all of his pieces to create mismatches. As a unit, the offense looks well coached with Josh McCown is giving the team a chance to win and the offensive line is showing some chemistry. That being said, opposing defensive coordinators now have several games worth of footage to prepare and Morton must show he can continue to evolve and make adjustments. This Sunday figures to be another challenge, as the Jaguars possess one of the better cornerback tandems in football featuring Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Expect a heavy dose of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and perhaps this will also be the week we see the emergence of wideout ArDarius Stewart. Stewart has produced in limited snaps and is deserving of a larger role on offense with his playmaking ability in the slot. While the Jets will get a boost with the return of guard Brian Winters, tackle Brandon Shell is listed as doubtful, while running back Matt Forte has already been ruled out. Ben Ijalana or Brent Qvale will start at tackle if Shell is unable to play, while Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire figure to see most of the work out of the backfield. Will newly signed Travaris Cadet be involved with any packages on offense?
Even in a half empty stadium with a large component of Dolphin fans, Jamal Adams and company had the crowd fired up after several impressive series on defense last week. It will be important once again for the Jets to get off to a strong start defensively and let the crowd get involved. A true home field advantage has been lacking for years, but fans have no choice but to get fired up if the defense is causing havoc and the offense is putting up points. Early momentum and some crowd noise could be enough to rattle Bortles and get the Jets back to .500 with a trip to Cleveland on the horizon.
Kevin Mawae takes his place in Jets history
At halftime, Kevin Mawae will become the 18th member inducted into the New York Jets Ring of Honor. During his eight seasons with the Jets, Mawae was selected to six Pro Bowls, and was a recent finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For myself and many other Jets fans, this ceremony will be special. Many of my early memories watching Jets football involved seeing Curtis Martin take a sweep or a toss for a huge gain, and there every time was Mawae leading the way with a full head of steam. Perhaps most importantly, as a kid who showed up several hours early to all home games, Mawae always stopped to take pictures and sign every single autograph before heading inside. He was the type of player that you were always proud to root for, as he valued his relationship with the fans, and played his heart out on the field. Congrats to Kevin Mawae and his family on an honor well deserved.