SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT
Much has been made of the Jets’ sweeping roster overhaul and rebuilding project, but the Bills have taken a similar approach under first-year head coach Sean McDermott and new general manager Brandon Beane. So in some ways, the Jets-Bills regular-season opener is like two teams looking in the mirror.
Gone from last year’s Jets are Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Davis Harris and Breno Giacomini, among others, and in their places are mostly new and untested younger players. But the Bills have done their own housecleaning to start the McDermott-Beane era — just not as extensively as the Jets.
The big move was trading former first-round wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams, and the Bills also dealt cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles. The Bills have beefed up on draft picks in the process, and now have two picks in each of the first three rounds in 2018.
That draft capital could come in handy if the Bills are in search of one of the top quarterback prospects next year. And, like the Jets, it’s expected that they will pursue one of those passers, perhaps at the top of the first round.
Unlike the Jets, the Bills do have some familiar faces left over from the Rex Ryan era. Tailback LeSean McCoy, defensive lineman Marcel Dareus and linebacker Jerry Hughes are back, as well as guard Richie Incognito.
FUN & GAMESMANSHIP
Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers on new linebackers coach Kevin Greene, a Hall of Fame linebacker: “Kevin is a ball of fun every day and his energy is infectious. Kevin has a famous saying, ‘You have to have a hunter’s heart.’ To sit in the room with him every day, you feel his energy and those guys feed off of him. . . . He wants the group to look like him in how they play should look and it’s really contagious. He’s tremendous.”
ON THE RUN
Can veteran running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell pick up where they left off last season? In 2016, Powell had 1,110 yards from scrimmage, while Forte had 1,076. Just 10 other teams in the last 10 seasons have had multiple running backs surpass 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the same season.
WELCOME TO THE NFL
Sunday’s game will be the NFL debut for the Jets’ top two draft picks — both safeties. First-rounder Jamal Adams of LSU, son of former Giants running back George Adams, and second-rounder Marcus Maye of Florida earned starting jobs early in training camp and had solid preseason performances.
The two had remarkably similar stats in college, as Adams finished with 209 tackles and five interceptions and Maye producing 210 tackles and five interceptions.
Leonard Williams hopes to build off a season in which he led the Jets in sacks (7.0) and quarterback hurries (25). Williams finished second in tackles (86) and tackles for loss (11.0). He expects big things out of this year’s defense.
“I see a very high ceiling for this defense,” he said. “Everybody should feel like they’re carrying the load. We feel like we’re carrying that load because we want to. We want to be able to put our best foot forward and be the best that we can be.”
Over the last two seasons, the Jets have allowed just 91.1 rushing yards, fourth-best in the NFL over that span. The 3.64 yards per carry average allowed in the running game is second overall since 2015.
Jets’ all-time record against the Bills