By Kevin McGuire
After losing two straight games to begin the new NFL season as low as possible, the Philadelphia Eagles look to pick up their first win of the year against an NFL Franchise they have never lost to. The Eagles head up the New Jersey turnpike this weekend to face the New York Jets, with the Jets coming off a short week. Will the extra day off make a difference for the Eagles, or are there too many problems to sort through that it will not make a difference? Here is a look at the New York Jets.
The New York Jets picked up a win in their season opener at home against the Cleveland Browns, and will be coming off a short week after playing in the Monday night contest on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets are coming off a 4-12 season that saw Rex Ryan, son of former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan, removed as head coach of the team. Ryan has since moved on to the Buffalo Bills, with former Eagles assistant Todd Bowles taking over as head coach. Bowles was with the Eagle sin 2012, when he served as a secondary coach as well as filling in as an interim defensive coordinator under Andy Reid.
The Eagles faced the Jets in the preseason, although it was the fourth and final game before the regular season kicked off. The Jets won that final tune-up, 24-18. The regular season match-ups is a completely different story. The Eagles are 9-0 all-time against the Jets dating back to 1973. The last time these two franchises met was in 2011, with the Eagles running away with a 45-19 decision in Philadelphia. The last time they played in the Meadowlands was in 2007, with the Eagles winning by a final score of 16-9.
Jets on Offense
One of the biggest developments with the Jets offense has been with the quarterback situation. Franchise quarterback Geno Smith had his jaw broken by (former) teammate IK Enemkpali as a result of a debt issue. With Smith recently being ruled out for Monday night’s opener, and it is still expected Smith misses the game against the Eagles before being able to make his season debut. That means the Jets will continue to run the offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, with rookie Bryce Petty (from Baylor) serving as a back-up. Fitzpatrick will still have a couple of good receivers to target with Brandon Marshall on one side and Eric Decker on the other. Neither would be considered game-changers, but they can be consistent against the Eagles defensive secondary, and that could pose problems.
The Jets running game is already banged up with Chris Ivory listed as questionable for Week 2. There are some decent young backs to use with Bilal Powell from Louisville trying to make an impact and Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy deeper on the depth chart.
Against the Browns in Week 1, the Jets executed 60 plays for an average of 5.6 yards per play. The offensive yardage was fairly balanced as well, with slightly more passing yards than rushing. That could prove to be a decent method to wear down the Eagles defense, which will be coming off a game it spent 40 minutes on the field against Dallas.
Jets on Defense
The discussion on the Jets offense begins with one man; Darrelle Revis. The return of Revis to the Jets secondary was a celebrated roster move, and why not? Revis brings a certain swagger level to the entire Jets defense. He remains one of the top cornerbacks in the game even though he may no longer be in his prime. He can be dangerous and will make throwing the football tough when the ball is going in his direction. He is just one piece of the puzzle, though, in New York.
The supporting cast in the New York defensive backfield is not a bad one, with Antonio Cromartie flanking the other side of the field and Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist at the safety positions. Depth may be a concern though. One of New York’s backup safeties is another former Temple Owl, Jaiquawn Jarrett. The former Eagles player never found a role in Philadelphia’s defensive game plan in his two years in town, and now he is one of the top safety backups for the Jets.
The Jets run a 3-4 defensive style and are hoping to get the most out of their linebackers. It may not be a star-studded cast of linebackers, but if they can find some consistency then the Jets defense can show improvement this season. Temple product Muhammad Wilkerson recorded a sack in the season opener and should be a key player to watch on the defensive line when he takes on the Eagles.
Jets’ Players to Watch
Calvin Pryor, Safety: Calvin Pryor was a monster in the season opener for the Jets. Pryor led the team with 10 tackles, and he will be around the ball anytime the Eagles go through the air. If there is a tipped pass in the area, Pryor could get his hands on it. He also is playing closer to the line of scrimmage, bringing some pressure when called upon.
Chris Ivory, RB: The Eagles defense has played OK up front early on, but getting off the field has been a struggle at times. That coudl once again be the case, especially if the Jets want to rely on their running game to pick up short yardage. If that’s the case, Chris Ivory could play a huge role in the game without having to put up monster numbers on the ground. Steady ball control can wear the Eagles down, so if Ivory can pick up a few yards on short0-yardage downs, he will be a big key to the game.
This is an absolute must win for the Philadelphia Eagles, and for at least the second time in the early part of the schedule it appears the Eagles should have an advantage on paper. That advantage has not paid off in either of the first two games of the season, and the Jets are not playing like a scared losing team. The Eagles do get the benefit of an extra day to prepare and rest up for the game. The Eagles were off on Monday while the Jets were on the road against the Colts. The Eagles should be a bit desperate, and that can lead to some inspired play or get the team a bit too amped up to make some mistakes. The Jets have some players that can take advantage of any miscues from the Eagles, so this one is by far from an easy win the way things have been going.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.