This is the game-day version of the New York Jets mailbag, which features a big-picture question about the defense:
#jetsmail Rich, you've been at camp for years, can the defense keep them in games this year or are we looking at regular blowouts?— John (@JPWaxer) August 11, 2017
@RichCimini: The best way to answer that is like this: It depends on the opponent.
As you know, the Jets defense is front-heavy, meaning the strength is on the line. Because of that, they will do well against run-oriented teams such as the Buffalo Bills (LeSean McCoy), Jacksonville Jaguars (Leonard Fournette) and a few other opponents later in the schedule. If the game is decided in the trenches, yes, the Jets have enough on defense to keep them in it.
But here's the problem: The way their defense is constructed -- questions at cornerback, rookies at safety and no proven edge rushers -- the Jets will be hard-pressed to keep it close against high-powered passing attacks. If I were playing the Jets, I'd spread them out with three- and four-receiver packages and throw quickly, neutralizing Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. You saw it in a bunch of games last season. It's tough for 300-pound guys to rush the passer when the ball is coming out in one to two seconds.
The Jets will see that approach from a handful of opponents on their schedule, most notably the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots (naturally) and New Orleans Saints. It'll be up to Todd Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers to make adjustments, which could mean playing more zone than usual. No doubt, they're counting on rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to provide a new dimension in terms of pass coverage, but it'll be hard to camouflage their deficiencies at cornerback. Smart coaches and quarterbacks will smell blood and attack.
What I'm saying is, if young players such as Adams, Maye, Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins don't establish themselves as above-average NFL starters, the defense will have some long days ... and that'll mean some really long days for the entire team.
But here's a glimmer of hope: The schedule includes only four of the top 12 passing offenses from last season. Trends vary from year to year, but, hey, it's something, right?