Jets defensive back Jamal Adams celebrates his interception against the Lions on Sept. 10, 2018, at Ford Field in Detroit.


Lichtenstein: Jets Fans Should Be Wary Of Crash In Home Opener

Darnold Faces New Test On Short Rest

Steve Lichtenstein
September 13, 2018 - 9:24 am

Jets fans are allowed to go a little overboard after Gang Green’s shocking 48-17 blowout in Detroit on Monday to open the season.

No one really knew what to expect, with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold making his pro debut behind a team with plenty of holes. That they dominated the Lions in every facet, however, wasn’t conceived in most fans’ wildest dreams.

The problem, unfortunately, is that it’s way too early to indulge in extrapolation. It was just one win in a long season over a team that looks like it could imminently implode.

The fact that the Jets’ next two games -- versus the Dolphins on Sunday and at Cleveland next Thursday -- appear winnable should by no means fuel your fantasies. To the contrary, we’ve seen this plot dozens of times, assuming you started rooting for this team in the 1970s like me. 

MORE: Jets' Johnson: Trade For Darnold 'Most Important Decision' Team Has Made In Years

Here are four reasons why you should be afraid that Sunday has all the makings of a classic trap game:

1) The Schedule

The league did the Jets no favors by scheduling their first three games in 11 days. Historically, Monday night victors often have trouble in their next game on a short week. Fortunately, the Jets appeared to come out of Detroit without any significant injuries. In addition, starting wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who was inactive in Detroit, resumed practicing Wednesday and could return versus the Dolphins (though safety Marcus Maye and linebacker Josh Martin are still on the shelf). However, a condensed schedule has been proven to put players at extra risk of injury. I’m not sure the Jets are deep enough if they have to win wars of attrition.

2) The Rookie QB

Darnold’s performance in Detroit (16-of-20, 198 yards and two touchdowns following a pick-six on his first career attempt) has unsurprisingly led to a rush to hail him as the Jets’ savior. As I noted in my last post, a lot went right for Gang Green on Monday, allowing Darnold to play a managed game. The offensive line was terrific, especially the run blocking, which was huge in helping Darnold overcome his early gaffe. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, just one of Darnold’s throws -- the 41-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson -- was deemed to be “in a tight window,” where the target’s separation from the defender was less than 1 yard. 

MORE: Jamal Adams On WFAN: Sam Darnold Has 'Mindset Of A Champion'

The Dolphins, who beat the Titans 27-20 in their opener on Sunday, certainly don’t appear to boast a world-beating defense, but they’ve got some guys who can create negative plays. Cameron Wake is a Jets killer, with 10 1/2 sacks in 17 career games. Miami now has real film on how Darnold runs the offense, not just the dummy version the Jets used in the preseason. It’s not unusual for a rookie quarterback to come back to earth after a solid outing.

3) Miami’s Dink-And-Dunk Offense

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had some awful days against the Jets. He’s also coming off a serious knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season. 

Still, Tannehill can be an annoyance. He typically gets the ball out quick (2.33 seconds on Sunday versus Tennessee, lowest in the league, per NextGen stats) and is very accurate, with a 62.8 percent career completion percentage. He was 20-for-28 on Sunday. Tannehill is a dink-and-dunker, the Kryptonite to the Jets' normal bend-but-don’t-break defense and the antithesis of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. Against the Titans, the average gain on 19 of his 20 completions was just 8 yards. The other, however, was a 75-yard bomb that traveled over 55 yards in the air to Kenny Stills for a touchdown. 

The Titans were fifth in the league in sacks last season but only got to Tannehill once Sunday. Between Tannehill’s mobility, the Fins’ short-passing attack and the Jets’ inconsistent pass rush, it could be a long day for New Jack City.

MORE: Keidel: Will Giants Come To Regret Not Drafting Darnold?

4) Jets DNA

Forget about the “Same Old Jets” cliché for a moment and instead let’s just focus on the Todd Bowles-era Jets. Even in their one good season among the three Bowles has been the head coach, you could always count on a stinker when the expectations were highest. The 2015 club went 10-6, but lost twice to the 8-8 Bills, including the season finale with everything on the line. Last season, the Jets admittedly were lousy, but they had a couple of emotional victories to potentially build upon, only to fall on their faces as favorites in their next game.

The Jets should be sky-high for their home opener. Their fans, who have waited a generation for a real franchise quarterback, are ready to embrace this team. The Jets’ apparent cockiness, however, with guys boasting they knew the Lions’ plays, is never a good sign. Any semblance of overconfidence from one win should make fans worried the Jets will again crash. 

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.