NFL identities get torn down and rebuilt on a regular basis. So it is with the Jets as general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles have redesigned the team that finished last season 5-11.
But what exactly is the Jets' identity in 2017? "We don't have one yet," said Bowles. "You won't find out our identity until about four or five games into the season. We have guys that play hard, practice hard, play together and work together. ... We know we're tough, we know we're going to play hard and scrap. We just have to see what our identity is as we go."
The ID will start to come together Sunday when the Jets travel to Buffalo for their 113th regular-season meeting all-time and their 12th season opener against the Bills — their most against any NFL opponent. Here are seven points of interest for Jets-Bills at New Era Field:
1. The RivalryWhy shouldn't these new-look Jets be ready to rock at "the Ralph" (as it was known before becoming New Era)? The old-look Jets were ready in their 37-31 Game 2 win last year, and these '17 Bills in some areas are as green as the Green & White. Buffalo holds the edge at home in this rivalry, 32-24, but last year's Thursday night success ended the Jets' four-game road losing streak. One more "trend" worth noting: The Jets have won their last five season openers vs. the Bills and their last four when opening the schedule in Western New York.
2. McCown Joins a Long LineJosh McCown is the 22nd different opening-day starting QB in Jets history, and while his 0-4 record as an NFL season-opening starter isn't trending upward, he can continue another positive trend. He's the third-oldest starter in franchise history, at 38 years, 3 months, 9 days, and the two older starters — Brett Favre (38-11-28 at Miami in 2008) and Butch Songin (38-4-30 for the Titans at Oakland in 1962) — both won their openers on the road. "There's nothing like opening day," McCown said with rookie emotion. "I feel good. I'm excited for Sunday."
Best Shots from the Series between the AFC East Foes.
3. The K-CrewFor a good part of the summer, McCown was throwing to a WR corps that had combined career totals of 161 catches, 2,005 yards and eight touchdowns. After final cuts and with the additions of Jermaine Kearse via trade and once and future Jet Jeremy Kerley, the production roughly tripled in all those categories, to 474 catches, 5,936 yards and 27 TDs. "They're veteran guys that know how to play the game, and it's good to have guys like that that can talk to the younger guys," OC John Morton said. "Any scenario that can happen, we're ready for it."
4. Different Kind of RésuméFor the first time in five years, the Bills have a head coach, in Sean McDermott, who has no Jets line on his résumé. We're not even counting Chan Gailey, who joined the Green & White after serving as Bills head coach from 2010-12. Post-Gailey came Doug Marrone (Jets OL coach, '02-05), Rex Ryan (HC, '09-14), and for last year's finale, Anthony Lynn (RBs coach, '09-14). McDermott, off of six years as the Panthers' D-coordinator, has a simple expectation for Sunday: "I will be very humbled and thankful for the opportunity."
5. Return of TyrodTyrod Taylor has returned from his concussion, bringing some normalcy to McDermott's QB picture. Now the depth chart is Taylor-Nate Peterman-Joe Webb, with T.J. Yates, also in the concussion protocol, going on IR. Tyrod is the same mix of extremes as he was the past two years. He's thrown 37 TDs to 12 INTs for a 94.2 rating, and his 1,107 rushing yards are the most among NFL QBs. But his 8.7% sack rate (on 78 sacks) was third-highest in the league. He's 2-1 vs. the Jets and 14-14 vs. the NFL.
6. Youth Movement"We're going to make history," said rookie Jamal Adams, and he's right in at least one way: Adams and Marcus Maye are slated to be the first pair of rookie starting safeties in any Jets game since 1966. Only 14 other rookie safeties have started since then in any game. Only eight of those — Burgess Owens (1973), Shafer Suggs ('76), Darrol Ray ('80), Erik McMillan ('88), Kevin Williams ('98), Erik Coleman (2004), Kerry Rhodes ('05) and Calvin Pryor ('14) — started in a season opener. And no Jets rookie safety has started alongside another rookie safety ... until Sunday.
7. The McGeoghan FactorOne interesting connection in this game: Phil McGeoghan is the Bills' first-year wide receivers coach. He was a protégé of Wayne Chrebet when he first signed with the Jets in 2001 and when he returned for '03 training camp. These days McG is a pretty good coach of wideouts. In '15 he helped Jarvis Landry set the Dolphins season record with 110 receptions. And last year he coached WRs at East Carolina, with Zay Jones erupting for an NCAA-record 158 catches. The Bills' revamped wideout corps now features second-round pick Jones and Jordan Matthews (and no Marquise Goodwin, Sammy Watkins or Robert Woods).