Off of their decent 3-1 showing against the NFC East last regular season, the Jets are set to open their 2016 Summer Sequel with three games against that division the rest of this preseason. The stretch kicks off Friday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, and is followed by the Giants and Eagles. No Cowboys this time around.
It's also the next game for Todd Bowles coaching against the team he played for in the last millennium, although he said that novelty has worn off: "That was years ago and a whole stadium ago."
What's more important now for Bowles' team? "We want to be more polished than we were in Game 1 ... clean up some of the mistakes we made," he said. "This week we're trying to get guys continuity with each other and move on from there."
Here are seven points regarding the Jets-'Skins matchup:
1. The Rivalry Such As It IsThe Jets have fared only fair against this infrequent rival, winning three of eight regular-season games and four of nine preseason. But FedEx has delivered nice packages in the Green & White's last two visits. In the summer of '06 the Jets prevailed, 27-14. In the '11 RS, they posted a 34-19 comeback win fashioned on three Shonn Greene touchdowns. That's two straight wins at FedEx, and the '11 win coupled with last year's 34-20 home comeback makes it two straight overall W's over Washington.
2. Opportunity vs. the RunThe Jets' run defense was hit early by the Jaguars, who averaged 5.2 yards/carry in the first quarter with Chris Ivory powering over for their only TD. Washington could give the D, which may get Muhammad Wilkerson back for a few series, a chance to reboot. The Redskins, who struggled to 30th in the NFL in yards/carry last year, then lost Albert Morris in free agency, gained 12 yards on nine first-half carries at Atlanta. "We've got to get our line coming off better," coach Jay Gruden said. "There's no excuse. We have to run the ball better."
3. Duels on the OutsideThe Jets WRs are good — Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, with Quincy Enunwa showing No. 3 wideout chops. The Redskins corners are also good — All-Pro Josh Norman coming up from Carolina with his big unrestricted free agency deal and third-year man Bashaud Breeland as the starters. Jets fans will recall Breeland's big day at MetLife in Game 5 last season, when he ripped a fumble away from Marshall and later came up with an interception tipped to him by a diving Brandon. Breeland had three takeaways, all in the first half. He was also in coverage on second-half TD tosses to Marshall and Decker.
4. Tale of the TakeawaysBreeland notwithstanding, Bowles preaches hard about turnovers. We know the Jets increased takeaways and plus/minus last regular season, but the lessons began to take hold when the Green & White had 8 TAs to 2 GAs in the four preseason games. Last Thursday they added a late INT by rookie S Doug Middleton vs. no giveaways, so we're mixing those apples and oranges again, but in the Bowles era's 21 games, the Jets have a plus-13 turnover margin.
5. Sudfeld Family ReunionZach Sudfeld saw his first game action in a year and a half against the Jaguars. Friday night Zach will get a short reunion with kid brother Nate, the former Indiana QB who was the Redskins' sixth-round pick and had a productive second half vs. the Falcons (10-for-15 for 89 yards, one touchdown pass, two TD drives). "I'm excited to play against him," Zach said, "but it's braggin' rights. We definitely have to win. I told everyone on the defense that." So the Jets will have that working for them, too.
6. Leon's LegacyLeon Washington hasn't been a Jet since 2009 but his name has come up a bit the first two weeks of this preseason. Last Thursday, rookie Jalin Marshall's 84-yard kickoff return against Jacksonville was the longest by a Jet in the preseason since Washington's 86-yarder vs. Atlanta in 2007. (And Leon, now a Jags coaching intern, was back in the Meadowlands to see it.) Wouldn't it be something if either Marshall or Jeremy Ross (51-yard KOR vs. JAX) took one to the FedEx house? The Jets' last preseason KOR touchdown was by none other than then-rookie Washington in the '06 game at Washington.
7. More RB IntrigueWith their running back injuries this camp, the Jets have added some intriguing street free agents. Matt Forte is unlikely to play, said Bowles, but two who could see action behind Bilal Powell: Lache Seastrunk, a Baylor back taken in Round 6 in 2014 by none other than the 'Skins, and Antone Smith, who played for the Falcons and, last year, the Bears and has a stunning career 11.8-yard average on 45 offensive touches, the best among all NFL backs with at least 20 touches from 2000-15. As an aside, in 2005 Smith played in the Florida State backfield that included ... Leon Washington.