3 juicy matchups for the NY Jets defense on schedule for 2022

The New York Jets defense is poised to succeed against these offenses

Matchups are everything in the game of football. It’s never that easy to just compare two teams’ sheer talent levels. A given team might be tailor-made to beat one team but perfectly engineered to be destroyed by another.

Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the best and worst matchups for the New York Jets in their 2022 schedule. Having previously looked at some of the best and worst matchups on the Jets offense, today we’re taking a look at some of the best matchups for their defense.

Chicago Bears passport protection

The strength of the Jets defense is their pass rush. So if you’re looking for enticing opposing matchups, it all starts with the offensive line. Teams struggling to protect themselves could find it difficult against New York’s strained defensive front.

The Bears offense returned an NFL-high 58 sacks in 2021 (3.4 per game). Much of that was down to rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ pocket presence struggles, but even just looking at the offensive line’s pass-blocking performance, things weren’t pretty. Chicago’s offensive line was blamed for giving up 27 sacks, which ranked eighth in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

To make matters worse for Chicago, their offensive line seems poised to take a step back this year. The Bears lost each of their two top-rated offensive linemen on Pro Football Focus: left tackle Jason Peters (still a free agent) and right guard James Daniels (signed with Pittsburgh). They added solid starter Riley Reiff to take Peter’s place, but overall it seems this unit isn’t designed to improve.

Another concern for Chicago’s offensive line is the status of Teven Jenkins, who was selected in the 2021 second round. Jenkins struggled with injuries and didn’t play much in his rookie season. He was expected to make a sizable leap in his second season, but now reports suggest the bears are trying to trade Jenkins. His struggles leave Chicago’s offensive line bare of talented young figures waiting to break out.

Chances are the Bears offensive line will struggle this year. Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers and the entire crew should kiss their chops for this.

Jet's X-Factor Membership

Green Bay Packers wide receiver

After losing superstar receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders, the Packers made little effort to replace Adams’ influence. Green Bay’s most notable additions to the position were free agent Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson, who was selected in the second round. While both players offer upside potential, neither is remotely safe.

The Packers’ top four receivers right now are Watkins, Watson, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. In a league overflowing with wide receiver talent, this is certainly one of the least intimidating units, at least on paper. Cobb, Lazard and Watkins combined for just 1,282 yards last year.

New York has a potentially powerful cornerback trio in Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed and Michael Carter II. Reed is a veteran offering high ground after compiling an entire season of premier coverage numbers in 2021. Carter II also offers some pretty high ground after a rookie year in which he excelled at avoiding mistakes.

Gardner is the X-factor heading into the 2022 season. While Gardner’s long-term ceiling is limitless, he should be expected to endure some bumps in the rookie year against some of the upper-tier wideouts he’ll face this year. However, the raw talent of the Cincinnati product should allow him to thrive in his first season against weaker WR units – like the Packers’ unit.

Green Bay has a strong offensive line and of course an elite quarterback. Their running back duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are also impressive. These facets of the Packers offense will be a big challenge for the New York defense, but the Jets’ advantage in the CB-vs-WR fight could be an equalizer.

If New York’s corners can completely block Green Bay’s wideouts, the Jets can take away the Packers’ ability to generate explosive plays and help keep the game within striking distance of Zach Wilson and the offense.

Minnesota Vikings running backs and tight ends in the passing game

While the Jets linebacker unit could have big problems in the running game, the group has the potential to put up some pretty solid coverage. Aside from CJ Mosley, the Jets’ LB unit consists almost entirely of short, fast linebackers who are more comfortable in cover than in the running game.

Quincy Williams and Kwon Alexander are the main sources of this unit’s passing potential.

Williams had an erratic 2021 season but showed many flashes of high-level features in the coverage. If he can pull it all together, he has the talent to be one of the best linebackers in the game.

The Jets clearly believe Williams can pull this off. The team made no aggressive attempt to improve their LB unit. In addition, New York’s coaches constantly sing the praises of Williams. Even after Alexander was added, the Jets still seem to see Williams as a starter alongside Mosley.

Alexander has been a top-end coverage linebacker throughout his career and has consistently been ranked as one of the most prolific “backers” in zone coverage. He’s currently considered the Jets’ primary sub-linebacker and will likely play about 30 percent of defensive snaps if he stays in that role.

Offenses that can make football work will punish this linebacker unit. But on the flip side, teams lacking reliable running back receivers and tight end positions could be put out of contention by this group’s athleticism and covering ability.

The Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams. Your passing prospects in the RB and TE positions are not promising.

Minnesota’s RBs only managed one touchdown last season. The Vikings’ top receiver at RB was Alexander Mattison, who ranked 35th with 228 receiving yards. Bellcow defensive back Dalvin Cook was no threat in the passing game, finishing 38th with 224 yards through the air without catching a touchdown. This duo will return and the Vikings haven’t made any significant additions to this position, giving these numbers a good chance to hold their own.

At TE, the Vikings had a solid season from Tyler Conklin last year, but Conklin is now a New York jet. His absence has left Minnesota’s TE unit in tatters. The group is led by Irv Smith, Ben Ellefson and Johnny Mundt. Smith averaged just 23 yards per game during his career and missed the entire 2021 season with just a torn meniscus. He is now dealing with a thumb injury which is putting his Week 1 status in question. Ellefson and Mundt combined for 1 catch in 11 games last year.

New York’s linebackers have a good chance of completely wiping out the Vikings’ RBs and TEs in the passing game. If they can pull that off, that would put all the pressure on the Vikings’ wide receivers to pull off the airstrike. That could make Minnesota’s offense very predictable, which would be beneficial for the New York cornerbacks as they try to contain Justin Jefferson.

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