The NFL season kicks off with the New York Jets facing the Carolina Panthers on the road with both teams hoping to improve from last season. The Jets finished last season with the second-worst record in the NFL going 2-14 while the Panthers finished last season with a 5-11 record and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The two teams are hoping to start off the season on the right foot and this game will likely be a measuring stick for the two rosters as well.
Jets hope to improve on both sides of the ballThe Jets were a mess last season and were forced to fire their head coach Adam Gase as they missed the playoffs for the 10th season in a row. The hope is that Robert Salah can turn around the franchise and the tall task will be turning around the league's worst offense from last season, which scored only 15.2 points per game. First-round selection Zach Wilson is going to start the under center and will turn to the running back committee of Tevin Colman, LaMichael Perine, and late-round draft pick Michael Carter to help him out in the backfield. Moreover, Wilson is going to look for wide receivers Jamison Crowder, who led the team in receiving yards with 699, as well as free-agent acquisitions Keelan Cole and Corey Davis to help out in the passing game.
In addition to hoping the offense improves, the defense will hope to step up after allowing 28.6 points per game last year. Robert Salah is going to bring over his defensive philosophy with quarters coverage and cover three while rotating lineman upfront, but key players will need to step up. Third-year defensive lineman Quinnen Williams is expected to lead the unit after recording seven sacks and 55 tackles but the Jets will be without free-agent acquisition pass rusher Carl Lawson, who will miss the season to injury. The Jets also will rely on linebacker CJ Mosley to return to form after opting out of last season to secure the middle of the defense while free agent signing LaMarcus Joyner helps in the box and secures the middle of the field. Most importantly the Jets will need cornerbacks to step up in the secondary, with Marcus Maye excelling at the safety position but the corner position searching for someone to step up, making this a big season for Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry.
Panthers hope offense steps upThe Carolina Panthers enter the second year under head coach Matt Rhule with a lot of optimism but a lot of question marks as well. The offense in particular struggled last season and the hope is that former Jet Sam Darnold can be the answer under center after three catastrophic seasons with the Jets. Darnold will look to all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey to help out in the backfield after missing 13 games last season to injury while DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, who combined for 2289 receiving yards and seven touchdowns will help out in the passing game along with McCaffrey running routes out of the backfield.
The offense was the weak link for the Panthers but the defense also hopes to step up after allowing 25.1 points per game last season but showing flashes of talent throughout the roster. Brian Burns has emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL after a season where he had nine sacks and Burns will look for second-year starters Duane Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos to help out upfront. In the middle of the defense, the Panthers will look to linebacker Shaq Thompson and safety Jeremy Chinn to lead the group as the duo combined for 231 tackles while Chinn will also be one of the key defenders in the secondary as he both blitzes and drops into coverage in the middle of the defense while first-round selection Jaycee Horn looks to become the number one coverage cornerback.