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Film Room: Jets' offensive success starts with run game


FRISCO, Texas — After an historic week one performance at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, the Cowboys return to Arlington for their home opener in search of the New York City sweep to open the season with a clash against the Jets awaiting on Sunday afternoon.

Despite Aaron Rodgers going down on the first drive for the Jets on Monday night against the Bills, a challenge on both sides of the ball awaits for Dallas with young first-round talents on the offense and defense that the Jets have been able to draft and develop.

Here are some film notes from the Jets' game against the Bills on Monday night and how it could affect Sunday afternoon's clash with the Cowboys.

  • Without Aaron Rodgers, New York's offensive success will have to be largely predicated around the run game, especially with it being Zach Wilson's first start after spending an entire offseason planning around Rodgers being the guy. However, the challenge that awaits in Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook is stiff to say the least. Hall brings the explosive, outside zone ability to get out in space for big gains (first two carries resulted in 102 (!) yards on Monday), while Cook brings the downhill physicality that proves to be elite in short yardage packages. In the running game, what one can't do, the other can do. In the receiving game, both have proven to be capable.
  • The Dallas defensive line has proven to be elite in pass rush, but how far have the offseason improvements come in the run game? That will be the test that will be taken on Sunday, but the cheat sheet for Johnathan Hankins, Mazi Smith, Osa Odighizuwa and company is an inexperienced and growing offensive line that will be facing a much bigger challenge. The bright spot from Monday night came from right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker who opened up running lanes for both Hall and Cook. I also really liked what Tyler Conklin was able to do in run blocking situations out at tight end as he was instrumental in Hall breaking loose on his first carry for a 40-plus yard gain.
  • Lastly on offense, Garrett Wilson returns to AT&T Stadium for the first time since playing in a high school state championship in 2017, and he arrives fresh off one of the biggest highlight catches he's had in his young career. Even though Wilson will be his quarterback the rest of the way, Wilson's high-point ability makes 50/50 plays closer to 75/25 with his body control and strong hands. All of those traits were seen on his big touchdown grab on Monday. I personally would like to see Trevon Diggs' ball skills and length go up against Wilson out of a pure matchup style phenomenon, but I expect Gilmore to draw most of the attention considering Wilson's athleticism and Gilmore's ability to hang with that with his elite movement.
  • Defensively, the Jets bring a lot of strength to the defensive line, athleticism to the second level and IQ to the secondary. Starting up front, Quinnen Williams needs no introduction with his brute strength in the interior. Williams caused mass disruption in the backfield with his five tackles, but it was his disruption that misguided handoffs or forced Josh Allen out of the pocket that was more frequent. With Zack Martin most likely drawing that battle, get your popcorn ready.
  • In the second level, C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams have the freedom to flow from sideline-to-sideline or downhill with little hesitation with the integral parts of the defense that they have around them that do their jobs. In effect, this duo provides a safety net in the run game while also disrupting tight end play in the receiving game. The one knock I could put on these guys that I think Dallas could find a lot of success with on Sunday is the combination of Sauce Gardner struggling with Stefon Diggs breaking inside off his release and them not identifying it quick enough to make a play on the ball when it came in. As a result, Diggs had a big night in the short-to-intermediate game.
  • Which brings me to the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, Sauce Gardner. The length is unreal at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and it's paired with a coverage ability that shouldn't be natural for a guy that long. Think Nahshon Wright with more fluid breaks and better ball skills, and that's what you have with Gardner. With that being said, having an athletic receiver that can get out of his release quickly like, let's say, Brandin Cooks, there can be opportunities. We saw it with Stefon Diggs on Monday night, and he was able to slowly chip away at a big performance as the night went on. You will rarely win downfield with Gardner, so the strategy will be to keep it short and sweet.
  • Lastly, the safety group for New York is no slouch in its own right despite the other position groups getting a lot of love during Robert Saleh's time with the Jets. While Jordan Whitehead's three interceptions on Josh Allen were mostly a result of being in the right place at the right time as a result of a crashing pass rush, three interceptions is still three interceptions. Similar to how the second level is able to just do its job, the same can be said for the safety group with Whitehead and Tony Adams. Opportunities did arise downfield on Adams, so if you're looking for Dak Prescott to take a couple shots, keep an eye on CeeDee Lamb getting open downfield out of the slot.

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