The 2018 NFL regular season is finally here, and Jets fans are anxiously awaiting the start of the Sam Darnold era. It all starts this Monday night when the Jets travel to take on Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.
Who: Jets vs Lions
When: Monday Night
All-time Series: Lions lead 7-6
Spread: Jets +6.5
Key Players to Watch:
Darnold ‘s Debut: Obviously, the biggest story and player to watch will be rookie QB, Sam Darnold. Jets fans worldwide rejoiced when they heard his name called with the 3rd pick in this years draft. Minutes before that, Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan rejoiced when Darnold was still available and that he had fallen to them. Crazy to think being drafted at #3 is considered falling, but in Darnold’s case it was. He was considered the top QB in this draft class for years.
When the Jets run it: Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell are expected to split carries for now. Each has different skill set, and one complements the other. However, look to see if one is leaned on more, or if one emerges Monday night to become more of the feature back. Crowell’s durability gives him an edge
Darnold’s top targets: As of now, Jermaine Kearse’s status for Monday night is up in the air. He is listed as having an abdomen injury. He had his helmet and was suited up for practice during stretching Thursday, but wound up not practicing. If he doesn’t play, all eyes should be on Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor. Enunwa was on track to be the Jets top wideout last season before hurting his neck and landing on IR. Similarly, Pryor had a breakout season in his second as a WR, and was also looking like a legitimate receiver until hurting his ankle last season. It lingered, he was never the same, and eventually went on IR. Both could become solid #2 options, or even pass Robby Anderson as the Jet’s top wideout
Carryover for young tight ends? Keep an eye on the TE’s and how there are utilized. Neal Sterling was the top option in preseason action, but the Jets seem to feel they have a deep group. Considering that, look for who gets the majority of the reps receiving, or if one of them has a great game to become “the guy.”
New blood up front: Defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd had a good camp, and then followed that up with a stellar preseason. Check out these stat lines from PFF that show just that. Keep an eye on him. He could be in line to break out, and become a legitimate pass rusher and run stopper off the d line.
Nathan Shepherd was a force on the defensive interior for the Jets last night. pic.twitter.com/5n7GSnxhPB
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 17, 2018
— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) August 19, 2018
Secondary on lock down? Todd Bowles has his best number one corner since arriving in Trumaine Johnson. Johnson’s play will be worth watching as he’s no long with the Rams where he had the luxury of a dominant defensive front that harassed quarterbacks consistently. With the Jets, he’ll be asked to cover for much longer than he may be accustomed.
Get ready for kickoff Jets fans. The wait is almost over.