Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Which matchup can the Jets exploit vs. Broncos?
EA: With the expectation that Jamison Crowder will return to action, the Jets might find some more success through the air in Week 4. Crowder is Sam Darnold's go-to guy, a reliable pass catcher who can work the middle of the field as well as most anyone in the NFL. Both sure-handed and explosive, Crowder has a knack for getting open and gaining yards after the catch. The Jets aren't the same when he's not in the lineup and his two-game absence hurt Darnold. While the Broncos are 8th in the NFL against the run (102.3 YPG), they are 29th in pass defense (277.7 YPG) and tied for 26th in sacks (6). The Jets sustained drives early against both the 49ers and the Colts only to have progress halted in the red zone. Crowder is a drive extender and his presence can free up some things elsewhere. I wonder if there will be times when Crowder and Braxton Berrios, who had a TD catch in Weeks 2 and 3, will be on the field at the same time. The Broncos top corner, A.J. Bouye, is on injured reserve and they are minus dynamic players up front. I think Darnold will have his best passing day of the season's first quarter in this prime-time matchup.
EG: Their offensive line. The Broncos have allowed 13 sacks in their last two games and, according to ESPN, rank last in the league in both pass and run block win rate at 36% and 63%. Denver lost its starting RT Elijah Wilkinson (leg) to injured reserve this week and he'll be placed by Demar Dotson, who signed in the offseason after playing 11 years with the Buccaneers. The Broncos center is rookie Lloyd Cushenberry (6-3, 312) and he'll have a tough test against a veteran group that includes Steve McLendon, Folorunso Fatukasi and Quinnen Williams, who had 2 sacks in Week 2. The Jets defense had 3 sacks in each of its first two games but wasn't able to bring down Colts QB Philip Rivers in Week 3. The Broncos rank No. 29 in rushing offense (84.3 yds/g), so if the Jets can bottle up RBs Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon, they should be able to pin their ears back and rush QB Brett Rypien, who will make his first NFL start Thursday night. Jets LB Avery Williamson said the defense needs to collapse the pocket when it blitzes and not allow Rypien any escape lanes.
RL: Hopefully for the Jets, they'll be able to exploit the most important matchup on the field — their pass rush vs. the Broncos' banged up OL and first-time NFL starting QB, Brett Rypien. The Jets' rush got off to a good start the first two weeks, then showed little (no sacks, one QB hit, no takeaways) vs. Philip Rivers and the Colts. Not much is known of Rypien, the Boise State second-year man who played in the Broncos' 2019 preseason and then made his pro debut in place of Jeff Driskel in Sunday's home loss to Tom Brady and the Bucs. Rypien seems to be accurate (8-of-9 late vs. TB but for 53 yards and an INT), and he's from the family tree that also produced Super Bowl-winning uncle Mark. But the Broncos are off their offensive game, with rankings of 29th in the NFL in total yards/game, rush yards/game and pass yards/play. Their 13 sacks allowed (11 against injured starter Drew Lock) is tied for second-most in the league and their 33 QB hits allowed are the most in the league. And in last year's second half, Gregg Williams' defense treated first-year starters very rudely: a strip-sack TD and 6 sacks in all vs. the Giants' Daniel Jones, 6 more sacks and a pick of Washington's Duane Haskins, and 4 sacks, 2 INTs and a 68.9 combined passer rating of Pittsburgh's youthful duo of Devin Hodges and Mason Rudolph. If the Jets are going to let it rip on Thursday Night Football, they're going to have to take it out on Ryp.
OL: The pass rush vs. Broncos QB Brett Rypien is a matchup the Jets can take advantage of in this week's prime-time contest. In his second season, Rypien will be making his first professional start after with starting QB Drew Lock on IR. The Jets have six sacks, with DL Quinnen Williams and S Marcus Maye getting two each, in the past three games. Against a young, inexperienced quarterback, a Gregg Williams led defense could take advantage and exert pressure on Rypien. Speaking with the media earlier this week, Williams said he wants the defense to continue to force takeaways and play tough. In last week's matchup vs. the Colts, the defense didn't force any takeaways and was slow to establish a rhythm early. The Jets should have ample opportunity to turn that around.