ESNY’s Michael Nania takes you through the 2019 New York Jets schedule with the “quick look.” The Buffalo Bills kick it off.
As training camp draws near, it’s about time to start getting back into the football groove. With this breakdown, I’ll be kicking off a series of concise looks at the 13 opponents the New York Jets will compete against in 2019.
We begin with the Jets’ AFC East rivals and opening week opponents, the Buffalo Bills.
Nov. 11, 2018 (Week 10): Bills 41 @ Jets 17
Sam Darnold missed his first game due to a foot injury suffered the prior week against the Dolphins in Miami, and the Jets looked lifeless without their young star. The Bills opened up a 31-0 lead late in the second quarter, stomping all over the Jets from start to finish on both sides of the field.
The Bills picked up 212 yards on the ground while Matt Barkley posted a career-best 117.4 passer rating starting in place of the injured Josh Allen. The game was an utter disaster for the Jets. It marked their fourth straight loss and dropped them to 3-7 as they headed into the bye week, effectively ending any playoff hopes.
Cries for the firing of Todd Bowles reached their peak following this game. The franchise’s insistence to allow Bowles to keep the job following such an embarrassment drew ire, but eventually, the team moved on from the incumbent head coach.
Dec. 9, 2018 (Week 14): Jets 27 @ Bills 23
The vibe around the Jets following their second meeting with the Bills in 2018 was much better than the first time around. New York entered this game losers of six-straight as they sported a 3-9 record. However, Sam Darnold was set to make his return from injury following a three-game absence.
This matchup started bleakly for the Jets, as Darnold was forced to leave the game early on, but it ended with sparks of great hope. Darnold returned to the game and led the team back from a 17-6 deficit to pick up a 27-23 road comeback victory against an elite defense. He became the youngest quarterback ever to record a fourth-quarter comeback win.
Overall, the Jets are 4-6 against the Bills over the past five seasons, claiming two out of five both in Buffalo and in New Jersey. An interesting split behind that record: the Jets have gone 4-0 against the Bills when their quarterback throws for a passer rating of 80 or better, and 0-6 when their quarterback has thrown for a passer rating below 80.
Mitch Morse, Center (FA: Kansas City) – The Bills needed a lot of help up front and made their biggest splash with the addition of former Chiefs center Mitch Morse. The 27-year old has been an above average center at his best, but has started only 20 out of a possible 35 games over the past two seasons. He’ll have to prove he can not only stay on the field, but also recapture his peak form.
Spencer Long, Guard (FA: NY Jets) – Jets fans are all too familiar with this name. Buffalo was aggressive in its offensive line construction this season and looked to a division rival for one of its additions. Long had an awful season for the Jets last year after being signed over from Washington.
He battled injuries and was brutal as both a pass protector and run blocker in the middle, also having issues with snap accuracy. He eventually moved to left guard, where he was not much better at all. The Bills will be hoping he can have an improved season for them with a full-time switch to guard.
Cole Beasley, Wide Receiver (FA: Dallas) – Buffalo made it a point to help out Josh Allen this spring. Beasley has never been a fantasy star, but he should be a useful security blanket underneath for the Bills.
John Brown, Wide Receiver (FA: Baltimore) – Brown led the Ravens in receiving yards last season. His production has been all over the map throughout his five-year career, but he is a strong deep threat, owning a career average of 15.0 yards per reception.
Andre Roberts, Returner (FA: NY Jets) – Roberts had an All-Pro season for the Jets in 2018, leading the NFL in punt return average and scoring two touchdowns in the return game. It will be interesting to see how both Roberts and the Jets special teams do without one another next season.
Ed Oliver, Defensive Tackle (Round 1, Pick 9): Oliver was the second defensive tackle taken in the 2019 Draft, following the Jets’ selection of Quinnen Williams at #3. Oliver wasn’t quite the all-around prospect that Williams was, but his pass-rushing upside is extremely tantalizing.
Kyle Williams, Defensive Tackle (Retired): Williams played in 183 games for the Bills over 13 seasons with the team, collecting 611 tackles, 141 quarterback hits, and 48.5 sacks.
John Miller, Guard (Signed with Cincinnati): Miller started 47 games at right guard for the Bills over the past four seasons, including 15 last year. He was graded as PFF’s #24 guard last season. The Bills will presumably hope to replace Miller with their second-round selection, Oklahoma product Cody Ford.
Charles Clay, Tight End (Signed with Arizona): Clay caught for 1,822 yards and nine touchdowns over four seasons in Buffalo. He disappeared in 2018, catching only 21 passes for 184 yards and no touchdowns, as the Bills offense barely used the tight end. In March, Buffalo went out and picked up free agent tight ends Tyler Kroft (Cincinnati) and Lee Smith (Oakland).
IMPORTANT NUMBERS FOR THE BILLS
Need to maintain: #2 Defense DVOA
Buffalo ranked second in Football Outsiders’ defense DVOA last season, behind only the Chicago Bears. They ranked third in lowest opponent passer rating allowed (82.6) and ninth in fewest yards per rush attempt allowed (4.2). Obviously, it’s going to be essential for the Bills to maintain their dominance on that side of the ball. If they can do that, the table is set for them to go as far as Josh Allen will take them.
Need to improve: #31 Pass Offense DVOA
The passing attack primarily led by Josh Allen didn’t get the job done last season. Buffalo ranked 31st in pass offense DVOA, ahead of only the hapless Arizona Cardinals. They ranked last in passing touchdowns (13), worst in team passer rating (62.6), worst in interception percentage (4.6%), 31st in total passing yards (2,794), and 31st in net yards per pass attempt (5.2). Ultimately, they ranked 30th in scoring with only 16.8 points per game. On the plus side, they did show signs of life down the stretch as they averaged 24.7 points a contest over their final seven games.
Josh Allen gets a pass for last year, as all rookies deserve. He’s a physically gifted quarterback with a lot of potential and it’s fair to give him time to progress towards his ceiling. However, if the Bills are going to capitalize on their great defense and compete right now, they’re going to need a huge step forward from the Wyoming product in 2019 and beyond.