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7 Points: Jets' Next Character Test Comes at Jacksonville

Can They Run on Jaguars? Beat Bortles Again? Hit Their Homestand at 2-2?


Two things Jets second-year safety Jamal Adams knows about the NFL, and that rookie QB Sam Darnold is picking up on pretty quick:

1. Nobody cares about your problems.

2. The next biggest game of the season is right around the corner.

"The last two games really don't matter. We've moved on," Adams said about the Jets' two-game losing streak heading into Sunday's road showdown against the Jaguars, an AFC Championship Game participant eight months ago. "This is the NFL. Anybody can beat you and you have to bring your A-game each and every Sunday, Thursday, Monday, whatever day it is."

Adams' confusion can be forgiven, since the Jets were the first NFL team since weekly Thursday night games began in 2012 to play a Monday night opener, a Sunday game, then a Thursday nighter in Week 3. Now it's back to Sundays at 1 p.m. for the next eight games, beginning with the Jaguars, a tough conclusion to their three-on-the-road September before they open their three-game homestand a week from Sunday.

The Green & White will be either 2-2 and on the upbeat to tackle Denver, Indianapolis and Minnesota. Or they will be 1-3 and searching for answers as well as wins at MetLife.

"I think every week is a character test for us, whether we win or lose," head coach Todd Bowles said. "This week is no different."

Here are seven more points of interest for Sunday's game at the stadium formerly known as Jacksonville Municipal, Alltel and EverBank, now called TIAA Bank Field (1 p.m. ET kickoff).

1. Recipe for Road Success?
The Jets lead the Jaguars all-time, 7-6, including the 1998 AFC Divisional Round home win. But success in J-Ville has been hard to come by, with the Jets winning only once in four previous trips to Florida's First Coast. That W came in the most recent game at Jacksonville, in 2012, and it was gritty — by 17-10 with Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene each scoring a TD and powering the 166-yard rushing attack. It was also the Jets' last road win in which they gained more rushing than passing (166-104). Not a recommendation for Darnold to have a 100-yard net passing output but rather for the Jets' ground game to crank it up and take the Jaguars crowd out of the equation.

2. Key Battleground
But which Jets run game will show up? Powell and Isaiah Crowell can be formidable, but they have also been getting hit in their backfield a lot. Powell/Crowell have received first contact behind the LOS on 23 carries so far, and the Jets have been tackled for loss 13 times already — their most in the first three games of a season since at least 2000. On the other hand, Crowell has the NFL's third-longest run in '18, 62 yards at Detroit, while the Jaguars (21st in the NFL in rush yards/game allowed) yielded the longest run, Saquon Barkley's 68-yarder in the opener at the Giants. And don't forget the Jets' 256 rush yards vs. the Jags in the Meadowlands last year.

3. The QBs
Darnold of course is facing Jacksonville for the first time, and if he thought Cleveland was tough sledding, well, the Jaguars are fourth in the NFL in total defense, third in pass defense, tied for second in scoring D (14.7 points/game) and No. 1 in touchdown drive rate (three TDs allowed in 33 drives, 9.1%). Conversely, Blake Bortles' offense has been so-so this season, the Jets beat him at MetLife in 2015 and last year, and he's 16-18 all-time at home. But he seemed a changed QB last season, and as Bowles noted, "He's more comfortable in their offensive scheme. I think his command of the offense is outstanding."

BORTLES VS. Record TDs INTs Rating
Jets 0-2 3 3 71.0
Rest of NFL 25-40 84 46 84.8

4. Quest for Robby
Darnold's best friend has been WR Quincy Enunwa, the Jets' leader in receptions (17), receiving yards (212) and YAC average (8.6). But where's Robby? "I know what I can do. I can be that spark, that life we need," **WR Robby Anderson told The Athletic**. "I want to get going. I need to get going." Anderson has six catches for 90 yards, the TD vs. the Lions and two lost fumbles. Last season he had 17 catches for 20-plus yards in a 10-game span, the Jets' hottest big-game streak since Wesley Walker. And, just sayin', that streak started around this time of the year. OC Jeremy Bates: "Robby hasn't had that breakout game yet. You never know when it's going to be."

5. On the Defensive
To get after Bortles and blunt the expected return of RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring), the Jets will need to be at their best. At LB, Avery Williamson hasn't been much better in his career than he was at Cleveland (career-record-tying 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss/no gain, 1.5 sacks), and Jordan Jenkins has four strip sacks in his last 20 games, the quickest a Jet's done that since Calvin Pace had four strips in 18 games in 2008-09. The D's health could be at its best all year if S Marcus Maye returns to the field. And if Leonard Williams can put his rare oh-fer stat line vs. the Browns behind him, the defense could make a decisive contribution.

Best Images of the Green & White Taking on Jacksonville

6. Grateful ASJ
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins left the Jets for the Jaguars this offseason, so it's not surprising that ASJ said his goal this week, if his core muscle injury doesn't hold him back, is to "try to give 'em hell." But it's said out of respect for how the Jets helped get him to successfully attack his sobriety issues. "Forget all the football stuff," **he told the Florida Times-Union**, "they're just really good people. They really cared about me as a person. That's why I'm here today." Comparison: Jaguars TEs this year: 11 catches, 105 yards (9.5 yards/catch), 1 TD. Jets TEs: 10 catches, 101 yards (10.1), 0 TDs.

7. Frenemy Combatants
In uniform besides Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars FB Tommy Bohanon and RB Brandon Wilds are former Jets, while T Kelvin Beachum, K Jason Myers and TE Neal Sterling spent time with JAX. On the sidelines, Jacksonville HC Doug Marrone was the Jets' OL coach from 2002-05. And among his staff are LBs coach Mark Collins (Jets OLBs coach, '15-16), assistant DBs coach Joe Danna (Jets DBs coach, '15-16) and assistant OL coach Tony Sparano Jr. (Jets quality control, '14, son of the late coach). Also, OC Nathaniel Hackett is the son of former Jets OC Paul Hackett ('01-04). There will be a lot of handshakes and back pats before and after this one, not so much during.

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