New York Jets: 5 Players to Watch vs Cincinnati Bengals

The New York Jets will be starting their season against the Cincinnati Bengals. Who are five players to watch for the Jets in their home-opener?

New York Jets

Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) and linebacker Erin Henderson (58) react on the sideline during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles won 14-6. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The start 2016 NFL season is right around the corner. For the New York Jets, it is an opportunity to finish what they started last season. The new regime of general manager Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles has turned around the culture of the team. In 2016, they will be attempting to make the playoffs in the AFC.

After being one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2014, the Jets were able to bounce back with a 10-6 record last season. Despite the good record, the Jets did fall short of making the playoffs because of a Week 17 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The Jets were able to keep a good chunk of their team intact from last season, but there are some new faces. The Cincinnati Bengals will certainly test the Jets right out of the gate. Despite having the reputation for struggling in the playoffs, the Bengals are a solid team in the regular season.

One of the knocks on the Jets last season was that they had a weak strength of schedule. That will not be the case this season. The Bengals will be one of the teams that will be challenging for a playoff spot in the AFC this season, which makes this a big game.

With an important game against a tough conference opponent to start the season, here are five players to watch for the Jets in Week 1.

New York Jets

Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) passes as New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) defends during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

– Leonard Williams

One of the players that are projected to have a big season for the Jets is defensive end, Leonard Williams. After having a solid rookie season in 2015, Williams has been a candidate to be a breakout player this season.

In Week 1, the Jets will be without Sheldon Richardson as he serves his one-game suspension. The Jets will be asking a lot of Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson with Richardson out, as they will have to log heavy snap counts.

This preseason, the Jets’ starting defense look rather poor prior to a good showing against the New York Giants. The one player that played noticeably well, however, was Williams. Generating a pass rush was an issue for the Jets without Wilkerson, but Williams was one of the few players who looked good with Wilkerson out.

When the two were together against the Giants, quarterback Eli Manning was harassed in the pocket. In Week 1, Williams and Wilkerson will try to replicate the pressure they got on Manning when they face off against Andy Dalton.

New York Jets

Aug 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) rushes the ball as New York Jets outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) looks on during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

– Darron Lee

The Jets were able to escape training camp and the preseason relatively healthy. One area that the Jets are a bit banged up in is at linebacker. Both David Harris and Jordan Jenkins are questionable for the Jets heading into Week 1.

Both players are projected starters for the Jets this season, and would be missed if they are out. While Jenkins is certainly an important part of the defense, Harris is the main injury concern heading into Week 1. As the middle linebacker and one of the leaders of the defense, replacing him is a tall task.

Luckily, the Jets have depth at linebacker this season. First round pick Darron Lee is expected to have a big role in the defense as a rookie, and he might find himself starting if Harris is out. Lee is a different linebacker than Harris, but alongside Erin Henderson, he should be able to contribute in Week 1 if more is asked of him.

Furthermore, even if Harris plays, he likely won’t be at 100%. Expect to see a good amount of Lee in his regular season debut.

New York Jets

Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) rushes the ball against the New York Giants during the first quarter of the preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

– Matt Forte

One of the big signings for the Jets this offseason was bringing in running back Matt Forte. The Jets lost Chris Ivory in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but getting Forte was certainly a good replacement.

Ivory and Forte are two very different running backs, and we will see that in Week 1. With the Jets, Ivory was a bruising running back who was best suited running in between the tackles. Forte is a more elusive back compared to Ivory, and he will be heavily involved in the passing game.

There is some concern coming into the season for Forte, as he missed a good chunk of the  offseason because of a hamstring injury. Forte was able to get into the Jets’ third preseason game against the Giants, and hopefully, that is enough work for him to be ready for Week 1.

The Jets will likely not be running the ball nearly as often with Forte in 2016. With a lot of talented weapons including Forte, look to see the Jets try and spread the Bengals’ defense out in Week 1.

New York Jets

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

– Ryan Clady

One of the biggest surprises in the offseason was the retirement of left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Since being drafted by the Jets, Ferguson was a very reliable left tackle and a true iron man for the team.

The sudden retirement of Ferguson left the Jets having to scramble a bit, but Macaggnan did a nice job filling his spot. A trade with the Denver Broncos brought over Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady. When on the field, Clady has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL. However, he does come to New York with an injury history.

Clady missed all of last season for the Broncos, but all signs point to him being healthy in 2016. The argument can be made that Clady is an upgrade over Ferguson, but that will be judged if he is able to stay on the field.

Against a talented Bengals’ defense, Clady will be tested in Week 1. Hopefully, he won’t have any rust from missing all of last season, and will be able to protect the blind side of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

New York Jets

Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws the ball in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

– Ryan Fitzpatrick

It was a long and difficult offseason for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. His contract negotiations took much longer than he or anyone would have expected. After a career year, Fitzpatrick didn’t get the money that he feels he deserves, and he will be out to prove that last season was no fluke.

In 2015, Fitzpatrick totaled 3,905 passing yards and 31 passing touchdowns. Despite the great season, there are many that believe Fitzpatrick will come crashing down to earth in 2016. Week 1 will be an opportunity to prove his critics wrong.

This offseason might have gone a lot differently for Fitzpatrick if it wasn’t for such a poor performance in Week 17. Against the Buffalo Bills, Fitzpatrick totaled just 181 passing touchdowns, two touchdown passes, and three interceptions.

The final game of the season looked like the Fitzpatrick that we have seen for much of his career and the not the 2015 version. Fitzpatrick bet on himself this offseason to be able to have another good season in 2016. Now, let’s see if he can do it.

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