Here are four Jets players to watch when the Green & White kick off the 2021 season and the Robert Saleh era with their opening-day game at Carolina on Sunday.
QB Zach Wilson — How will the young rookie out of BYU perform and handle the "challenge" of his first pro start? "I really don't know if it'll be a challenge," Wilson said this week. "I've played football my whole life, and in college it's a lot of emotion there as well. I think back when we played Tennessee in Neyland Stadium and 110,000 people. I feel like I'm going to handle it the exact same way." Whatever OC Mike LaFleur's game plan, Wilson will want to be accurate and find the open man, whether down the field or out of the backfield. He'll need to be in low-turnover mode, as he was last year at BYU and this preseason vs. the Giants and Packers. And he has to let any pressure roll off his back ... just like he said it did in the Cougars' 29-26 road conquest of the Vols that he referred to in 2019.
WR Corey Davis — Davis posted some good numbers in four seasons in Tennessee. Now that he's the Jets' top wideout dog, he wants to up the ante. "I believe, I know that I'm a No. 1 receiver in this league," he said. "It's great that the Jets saw that during the free agency. I'm ready for it, man. I've always thought of myself as a number one receiver, I just got to go out and prove it to the league." No better time to start than opening day, when he'll be going up against first-round rookie press corner Jaycee Horn and veteran CB Donte Jackson. Davis: "It will be a good challenge for not only me but the whole wideout corps, but we're ready for it. We want this challenge."
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LB C.J. Mosley — Mosley has given every indication, verbally and physically, that he's back to the form from his Ravens days when he posted 100 tackles and multiple takeaways almost every season. After he missed virtually all of the past two seasons, Jets fans can't wait to see C.J. get cranked up against Sam Darnold and the Carolina offense. But first things first: Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is back after missing most of 2020 due to injury. He'll be shot from a cannon and it'll be up to Mosley and his defensive mates to meet force with force, keep McCaffrey in check, and turn Darnold into a one-dimensional QB that the Jets' attacking four-man front can take aim at on passing downs.
CB Bryce Hall — It might be more correct to say Hall and the rampant youth in the Jets' secondary — rookies Brandin Echols, Jason Pinnock and Isaiah Dunn on the outside and second-year man Javelin Guidry and rookie Michael Carter II at nickel. Add in veteran Justin Hardee and all seven corners have combined for NFL career totals of two INTs and five PDs. Hall and friends will need to make some plays on the ball to prevent former Jets WR Robby Anderson and fellow 1,000-yard receiver D.J. Moore from busting free downfield. But while their inexperience could lead to yielding a chunk play or two, the tremendous upside that Saleh and DC Jeff Ulbrich see in them should be exciting to watch unfold.