FLORHAM PARK, N.J. --The first (real) game of the Todd Bowles/Mike Maccagnan era rolls into MetLife Stadium and for the first year head coach and his general manager, it is a chance to turn around a New York Jets franchise stuck in neutral the past four seasons.
Four years without the playoffs. Four years without a winning record. Four years without hope. All that could well be gone this year given the offseason and big ambition shown by Maccagnan in this, his first season as an NFL general manager. And in Bowles, he has a willing partner as a no-nonsense head coach.
Their first test, Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (1 p.m., CBS), is a very winnable game. The Browns have a less than ideal quarterback situation to go alongside a defense that struggled against the run last year.
It isn't playoffs or bust, not this year for the Jets, but if they want to show marked improvement under a new regime than this is the type of game they need to win, and frankly should win.
Three Things to Watch from the Jets in Week 1:
Ground 'Em, Pound 'Em – The Browns had the league's worst run defense last year, giving up 4.5 yards per carry and 141.6 yards per game (the Jets were fifth in the league against the run last year for comparison, allowing 93.1 yards per game). With Chris Ivory looking sharp in training camp and preseason as well as Bilal Powell, the Jets will want to test this revamped Browns defense early in the game. Throw some Zac Stacy into the mix and there could be a lot of running between the tackles in this game.
Slow, Methodical Fitz – This will be the first regular season start for Ryan Fitzpatrick as a Jet and he is an ideal fit in this offense. He's had success before with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey when the two were together with the Buffalo Bills, putting up the best numbers of his career during that span. The idea will be for the Jets to run the ball, control the clock and methodically move the ball down the field in the passing game. Fitzpatrick, who makes sharp, quick decisions with the ball, should be able to run this offense to perfection.
Discipline – The Jets were a rather average team last year in terms of penalties but they were an undisciplined bunch in crucial moments. False starts killed promising drives, offside penalties gave other teams a fresh set of downs. In Bowles, the Jets have a head coach high on discipline and accountability. This team should not be getting flagged as much.