The 1-1 Jets in general can't look past any opponent (nor should any team), and specifically head coach Robert Saleh knows his players had better not take 0-2 Cincinnati lightly. "When you turn on the tape, you see a bunch of guys playing hard," Saleh said of the Bengals, who come to MetLife Stadium to play the Jets on Sunday. "Their defense is very talented, offensively they're very, very close. So they still look every bit the AFC champions from a year ago and it's going to be a great challenge this week."
It'll be up to the Jets as a team to overcome that challenge in front of the home crowd. Here are five members of the Green & White to watch Sunday afternoon:
DL Carl Lawson — Lawson couldn't make last year's first chance for a reunion with his former Cincinnati teammates, so Sunday he has the opportunity for double the fun. He limbered up with his first (half-)sack at Cleveland since Game 14 of the 2020 season as a Bengal against the Steelers. Now he's got a shot at his old QB, still young Joe Burrow, who in the first two games this season following Cincy's Super Bowl appearance, has been sacked 13 times, hit 20 times and has committed 4 turnovers. If Lawson can lead a path of green and white jerseys to Burrow's doorstep, that will help the Jets get off to the fast start they've been seeking while preventing the Bengals from the fast start they have yet to find.
TE C.J. Uzomah — If he's cleared from his hamstring pull of a week ago, Uzomah will have as much to get him fired up for this one as Lawson does. C.J. broke into the NFL as Cincinnati's fifth-round pick in 2015, came to the Jets this offseason off a career receiving season with the Bengals (49 catches, 493 yards, 5 TDs) and no doubt would like to show his former teammates and coaches what they're missing in their offense. Additionally, he had no catches on no targets in his Jets debut vs. the Ravens and spent last week at the Browns on the inactive list. Uzomah's a normally ebullient fellow and we can't wait to see if he boils over with a powerful game against the Stripes.
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Bengals game.
RB Michael Carter and WR Garrett Wilson — This is a changeup from the two-rookies-or-two-sophomores story angle. Carter's been quietly productive with 150 scrimmage yards in the first 2 games. But MC hammered the Bengals last year with a career-high 172 YFS, 77 on the ground and 95 on nine catches. And a Carter eruption could either lead to or proceed from a Wilson continuation of his production in the Cleveland comeback (8 catches, 102 yards and 2 TDs). If the O-line can protect QB Joe Flacco from Cincy's 29th-ranked sack operation, Joe Cool can find his receivers out of the backfield or downfield and limit his defense's exposure to the Bengals' slow-starting but dangerous offense.
CB Sauce Gardner — Hard to say how Gardner responded to last week's game in his college state of Ohio against the Browns combined with Sunday's matchup with the team from the same city as his University of Cincinnati. It's not quite the same as playing the Bengals at the stadium once called Paul Brown (now Paycor). But Sauce is off to a solid start to his Jets career and greater days are ahead, perhaps as soon as Sunday against second-year Cincy star WR Ja'Marr Chase. In 19 pro games Chase already has 96 receptions for 1,638 yards (17.1 yards/catch) and 14 TDs. In Week 7 last year, though, the Jets' young secondary held him to 3 catches for 32 yards and a TD. Chase may want some payback and Gardner will lead the charge to try to prevent that from happening in the Meadowlands.