Posted on September 5, 2018, by Travis Pulver
ESPN had to be happy to hear that the New York Jets have decided to go with Sam Darnold at quarterback. While many NFL fans would be tuning into the first Monday Night Football game anyway, more will do so to see how the No. 3 pick in the draft performs in a real game.
Should he do well and the game becomes a close one, maybe more will be inclined to stay tuned for the second half of the MNF double-header, Rams vs. Raiders.
Sticking with Josh McCown to start the season would have been the safe move. But in recent years, more and more teams have opted to let their rookies learn by playing. With how he played in the preseason, there is a reason to have hope for Darnold. However, he didn’t see too many snaps against a starting defense.
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While the strength of the Lions game is there offense, they have a good secondary and a decent pass rush. The Lions defense will be happy to give Darnold a proper welcome to the NFL. But will they?
New York Jets
The New York Jets played surprisingly well last season with McCown behind center. They are hopeful that the offense can take a step forward with Darnold. But to be fair, how much help is the rest of the offense going to be? It doesn’t matter if Darnold is destined for greatness if he doesn’t have a good team around him.
They made a couple of improvements to the offensive line, so the protection should be better (Jets QBs were sacked 47 times last season; seventh). It appears as if the Jets will once again be going with a running back-by-committee approach. But it wouldn’t be shocking if Isaiah Crowell were to become the lead back eventually.
At wide receiver, they have some respectable players but no one worth bragging about. Robby Anderson was the best of a bad bunch last season followed by Jermaine Kearse (who is questionable for Monday). Quincy Enunwa gives the group a little more depth this season after missing last season with an injury.
Washington didn’t really give Terrelle Pryor much of a shot last year, but the Jets could certainly use the guy who caught 77 balls for 1007 yards for the Browns in 2016.
As usual, Matt Stafford and his arm will lead the way for the Lions. Much like he has for the last decade, chances are good he’ll be one of the more productive QBs in the game once again. The only thing that may hamper him is if the team actually establishes a run game.
They’ve been trying to for years but have always come up empty. But there is now a reason for hope after the team brought in LeGarrette Blount and drafted Kerryon Johnson. Blount is a proven short-yardage, goal-line beast. Johnson has played well in limited preseason action. The team hasn’t necessarily given up on Ameer Abdullah, but he is going to have to earn time this year by being productive.
They will not get anywhere in a tough division if the defense doesn’t play better—something new head coach Matt Patricia will focus on. Lions GM Bob Quinn spent a lot of time (and money) working on improving the personnel Patricia, and DC Paul Pasqualoni have to work with.
The secondary is in good shape, but the trick will be whether all the pieces acquired for the front seven can gel sooner rather than later.
So—who’s going to win?
The Lions secondary will not make it easy on Darnold. But it remains to be seen if the front seven can put enough pressure on him and keep the run game in check. If the Jets can run the ball, the Lions could be in trouble. But there isn’t any reason to believe that they can. They were one of the worse rushing teams in the preseason (31st) and didn’t do a very good job of it last year either (19th).
If the Jets have to rely on Darnold, it is hard to see them winning.
The Prediction: The Jets will put up a valiant fight in Darnold’s first start. But in the end, expect the Lions to win and cover the spread (-6.5 points).