This will be a case of strength against weakness. The Jets had arguably the best running game in the AFC a season ago. The Texans were one of the five worst run defenses in the league. This should provide Thomas Jones and Leon Washington a real opportunity to start 2009 on the right foot.
The Texans made some upgrades up front. The one with the biggest impact will likely be Antonio Smith, who is a quality run defender at defensive end. The Jets love to run the ball to the right side with Brandon Moore and Damien Woody lining up over there. Gang Green will probably attack Smith's side, frequently pulling Alan Faneca as well. The rest of the defensive line is not great against the run. Mario Williams is developing into an elite pass rusher. His play against the run has been slower to develop. D'Brickashaw Ferguson surely improved a year ago run blocking, but it's still the weak point of his game. That will be less pronounced against Williams.
Houston is still searching for the right mix at tackle and will show a rotation of Lions import Shaun Cody, Amobi Okoye, Frank Okam, and DelJuan Robinson. It will be difficult for them against the interior of Moore, Faneca, and Nick Mangold. This combination in conjunction with Tony Richardson will bring the run game a lot of success if they can beat this unremarkable duo and hit the second level, getting bodies on Texans standout linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
One area where the Jets will have a disadvantage is a matchup between Brian Cushing and Dustin Keller. Gang Green telegraphed too many plays last season, constantly throwing with Keller in the game and putting in Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner before calling a run play. I would expect to see plenty of Ben Hartsock to play against Cushing on the run. If Keller can consistently beat Cushing on passing routes and force Houston into sticking a nickel to play Keller, the Jets will have a much easier time playing Dustin on run downs. The advantage will go away.
I anticipate the Jets trying to do what they do best, attacking Houston's interior weakness by running between the tackles and to the right, minimizing the amount of work Ferguson has to do. The Jets should run early and often to force eight into the box and open things up for Sanchez. Once the Texans start selling out on the run, it will be up to the rookie to perform.