All the Jets will be worth a look to see if they're really made of what they say they are on opening day against Baltimore at MetLife Stadium. But here are a few names that stand out in particular for the roles they'll have and the expectations that fans have for them when going up against the always-tough Ravens and trying to secure their first season-opening victory since 48-17 at Detroit in 2018.
Joe Flacco — The ball is in Flacco's court, with coach Robert Saleh announcing at midweek that Zach Wilson will be out for the first three games. And as Flacco, starting his 15th NFL season, has said, "I still feel like I've been playing at a high level and that's ultimately what motivates me." He also said he is looking forward to doing battle against his team of his first 11 years, the Ravens. All of that and more suggests he'll come flying out of the gate. As an opening-day starter (mostly with the Ravens), Flacco is 8-4 with an 85.0 passer rating. When opening the season at his home stadium, he's 6-1 with a 96.3 rating. In home openers, he's 9-3 with a 96.6 rating. And at 37 years young, he's coming off a strong preseason of practices, especially in the joint workouts with the Falcons and Giants.
Carl Lawson — It will be riveting football theater to see Lawson get shot out of his personal cannon and into the pocket from where Lamar Jackson will be operating. This will be Lawson's first regular-season game action since Cincinnati's 2020 season finale, which came at Baltimore in an otherwise forgettable 38-3 loss to the Ravens and in which Lawson got his last QB hit in any game, which just happened to be on Jackson. In the Bengals' four AFC North games against the Ravens in 2019-20, Lawson totaled four hits on and a sack of Baltimore's elusive, explosive QB so he knows what it feels like and looks like. And how he fares will have an impact, in this game and beyond, on the rest of the Jets' edge rushers, who were rebuilt with Lawson's return from his Achilles injury and the drafting of Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons.
See the best images from Wednesday's practice leading up to the 2022 season opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
C.J. Uzomah/Tyler Conklin — The WR and RB positions are very important to the Jets' offensive operations but what will be of tremendous influence is how the Green & White's remade TE position comes out of the tunnel. As we've mentioned, Uzomah (Bengals) and Conklin (Vikings) both established career-high receiving numbers last season and combined for 110 catches, 1,086 yards and eight TDs. Is that receiving line reachable by the entire TE room this season, let alone the top two vets? We're about to get some indication Sunday, perhaps especially because Joe Flacco knows the value of great tight end targets, having worked with Ravens TEs Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta and current Baltimore Pro Bowler Mark Andrews over the years.
D.J. Reed — Both corners will be in the spotlight, Sauce Gardner because this is the top draft pick's first NFL game and Reed because he came to the Jets from two seasons as a contributor to Saleh's 49ers defense in 2018-19 and the past two seasons as a starter for Seahawks, and he's been hurt. Reed's knee soreness kept him out of all three preseason games, and while he returned to practice Wednesday, he was a limited participant. If Reed can't go or is limited Sunday, Bryce Hall is game to step in. And safeties Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner will also come into play because Jackson's favorite targets, TE Andrews (107 catches, 1,361 yards, 9 TDs last year) and a young, fast WR group led by Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, will test all of the members of the Jets secondary, young and old.