Jets facing the Cincinnati Bengals this week, game three of the young season. The 1-1 Jets in general can’t look past any opponent (nor should any team), and specifically head coach Robert Saleh knows his players had better not take 0-2 Cincinnati lightly.
EDGE Carl Lawson
Carl Lawson couldn’t make last year’s first chance for a reunion with his former Bengals teammates, so Sunday he has the opportunity for double the fun. He limbered up with his first (half-)sack at Cleveland since Game 14 of the 2020 season as a Bengals against the Steelers.
Now he’s got a shot at his old QB, still young Joe Burrow, who in the first two games this season following Cincy’s Super Bowl appearance, has been sacked 13 times, hit 20 times and has committed 4 turnovers. If Lawson can lead a path of green and white jerseys to Burrow’s doorstep, that will help the Jets get off to the fast start they’ve been seeking while preventing the Bengals from the fast start they have yet to find.
Rookie WR Garrett Wilson
Rookie sensation Garrett Wilson single handily was the main cog last week at Cleveland who helped the Jets with a miracle NFL historical comeback for the ages. Focusing in on his Browns breakout performance (8 catches, 102 yards and 2 TDs), Garrett seems to be settling in on his role for gang green. If the O-line can protect QB Joe Flacco from Cincy’s 29th-ranked sack operation, Joe Cool can find his receivers out of the backfield or downfield and limit his defense’s exposure to the Bengals’ slow-starting but dangerous offense.
Rookie CB Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner is off to a solid start to his Jets career and greater days are ahead, perhaps as soon as Sunday against second-year Cincy star WR Ja’Marr Chase. In 19 pro games Chase already has 96 receptions for 1,638 yards (17.1 yards/catch) and 14 TDs. In Week 7 last year, though, the Jets’ young secondary held him to 3 catches for 32 yards and a TD. Chase may want some payback and Gardner will lead the charge to try to prevent that from happening in the Meadowlands.
Jets Have the Advantage
“We all think it has to be better,” Saleh said of the pass rush. “The first week, fully understood the fact we were playing Lamar [Jackson]. This week, and I’m not making excuses for the guys, presented us with a different challenge with how much they run the ball. … When we get our opportunities for 1-on-1s, we have to win. We have to keep the quarterback in the pocket and we have to be able to rush as a unit. It hasn’t been bad, I’m not saying that. You just want more.”
Saleh said Lawson, “is warming up” back from his Achilles tendon injury.
“He still looks good to me and I know that there’s another gear in there for him and it is coming,” he said. “He’s going to be fine. He’s got all the power and all that stuff, there is just getting all that timing back.”
“I see a team that’s still playing their tails off, a team that still brings it every day,” HC Robert Saleh said. “They’ve been on the wrong side of luck. They’re still the AFC champs in my mind. They still look like the AFC champs. They’re still playing at a very high level and we fully expect them to be exactly what we’re seeing on tape, which is a really good football team.”
“Those guys are really good when you get the ball in their hands,” QB Joe Flacco said. “Any way you can do that, obviously you’re not going to be able to turn around and hand the ball off every time, so the more versatile those guys are the easier you can get the ball in their hands, it definitely opens up things for your offense. I think that that’s what those guys are. … Ultimately, when you get the ball in their hands, they make guys miss.”