The New England Patriots and New York Jets are set to square off tomorrow night for a great rivalry matchup of Thursday Night Football, and it’s time to take a look at five players on the New York Jets offense worth watching on Sunday.
1. C Nick Mangold
I’m going to kick things off with the player I still view as the best player on the Jets, even though there are more players to choose from now with how well Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie played last season. Mangold is still the best center in the NFL going, and the matchup between Mangold and the Patriots interior is going to be, as always, a fun one to watch. Vince Wilfork had an absolutely fantastic game on Sunday, as he made absolute mincemeat out of Colin Brown and Eric Wood in the running game. Mangold is a much better run blocker than those two, and he’s also definitely equipped to stop Tommy Kelly as a pass rusher. Kelly had two quarterback hits on Sunday, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has none tomorrow. Although Mangold did have an off game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will almost certainly bounce back tomorrow and is clearly a guy to watch.
2. QB Geno Smith
Most of these “Five to Watch” lists include the opposing quarterback, and Geno Smith is an incredibly intriguing player to watch come Thursday night. Smith looked good in his NFL debut against the Buccaneers, earning rave reviews from the likes of Bill Belichick. Smith showed some really good clutchness, and he impressed me more than E.J. Manuel. Although Manuel was poised and accurate, I thought Smith had to make much tougher throws, and I also came away impressed with Smith’s rushing ability and ability to improve and make adjustments as the game wore on.
3. RB Chris Ivory
The New York Jets finally have a player capable of being a feature back after acquiring Chris Ivory in the offseason, but Ivory didn’t show off his ability against the Bucs. Give huge credit to the Bucs defense, though, as they shut down so many running lanes and showed why their run defense receives high praise from the likes of Tom Brady. The Bucs held Bilal Powell to 2.4 YPC and Ivory to an even more putrid 1.5 YPC, but there is no doubt in my mind that Ivory was the better player. Although his numbers were worse than Powell’s, he ran better and is obviously the more talented back; this is almost like a Lamar Miler vs. Daniel Thomas situation. Ivory probably won’t have a good game since the New England Patriots run defense is so good, but he is a talented back who racked up the YPC with the New Orleans Saints.
4. TE Kellen Winslow Jr.
Remember him? Kellen Winslow Jr. spent an extremely brief amount of time on the New England Patriots roster last season before both sides mutually agreed to part ways due to Winslow’s ridiculously balky knees. At this point in his career, Winslow is a bad hit away from being done of the year (or his career), but he is an effective pass-catching tight end when healthy. Winslow is a key to the Jets passing offense right now, especially with Jeremy Kerley set to miss tomorrow’s game with a concussion. It feels weird saying it, but Winslow is the Jets most consistent receiver right now, and he was terrific on Sunday. He snagged seven passes on just eight targets for 79 yards for a catch rate of 87.5% and an average of 9.9 yards per target. Those are great numbers, and he should have a big day against the Patriots. Not only will Smith be looking for him, but the Patriots aren’t exactly the best team at covering TEs.
5. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson
Let’s end the piece with a look at another star on the New York Jets offensive line in left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who is still one of the most talented blindside protectors in the NFL. Decent as a run blocker and highly effective as a pass blocker, Ferguson clearly got the better of Chandler Jones when they faced off last season, and he could be in line for a similarly successful day if Jones plays like he did last week against the LT. While Jones looked pretty good overall by getting some good pressure as a DT sub-package rusher, Jones had issues lining up as a defensive end, as rising second-year left tackle Cordy Glenn had a phenomenal day. Jones has a tough matchup ahead of him, and we’ll see if he’s up to the task of beating one of the most established left tackles in the league.