Each week this season, I’ll be previewing the Jets’ upcoming opponent with a look at a few of the most crucial player-versus-player matchups that could decide the outcome of the game. Let’s start with the Buffalo Bills!
Bills DE Jerry Hughes vs. Jets LT Kelvin Beachum
The Bills had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, ranking second in defensive DVOA behind only the Chicago Bears. A huge driving force behind their success was the pass rushing dominance of Jerry Hughes.
Ever since posting back-to-back 10.0-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014, Hughes has not been much of a sack monster. He collected a total of 22 sacks over the past four seasons, with a high of seven last year.
Those uninspiring sack numbers mask just how much of a disruptive force Hughes has really been for Buffalo. In 2018, Hughes racked up 74 total pressures, tied with J.J. Watt for the second-most in the league among edge defenders behind only Dee Ford (77). Hughes achieved that ranking while placing way down at 37th among edge defenders in pass rush snaps (375).
Hughes did the vast majority of his damage from the right side, where he lined up for 353 of his 375 pass rush snaps. When rushing from the right side, Hughes notched a total of 69 pressures, the most in the league from the right side and 13 more than any other player (Myles Garrett ranked second with 56).
If Hughes continues to line up primarily on the right side, he will engage in plenty of battles with Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum, as they did last season.
The Hughes vs. Beachum battle seemed to be split last season. In Buffalo’s Week 10 blowout win at MetLife Stadium, Hughes collected 6 pressures, including a sack. However, when the Jets went into Buffalo and defeated the Bills in Week 14, Hughes notched only two pressures, tied for his second-fewest of the season.
Bills CB Tre’Davious White vs. Jets WR Robby Anderson
To me, this may be the most intriguing cornerback-versus-receiver matchup in the AFC East. White has emerged into a young star for the Bills at one of the NFL’s dwindling positions, where top-notch talent has become harder to find. Anderson has become one of the league’s best deep threats, and is hoping to grow into something even bigger in 2019.
White and Anderson have met up three times since the former was drafted in the first round of the 2017 Draft. In Week 1 of 2017, White won the battle. Anderson only earned one target while covered by White, which fell incomplete. Overall, Anderson finished the game with a measly 22 receiving yards on eight targets (2.8 per target).
Anderson has had more success in his last two meetings against White. Over the last two games in which the pair met up, Anderson has caught 5/7 targets for 82 yards against White’s coverage. Two of those catches moved the chains, while two were touchdowns, as Anderson scored on White in each game.
Here is the first touchdown Anderson scored against White, a 25-yard bomb down the sideline off of a great throw from Josh McCown.
The second touchdown that Anderson scored against White’s coverage came on Sam Darnold’s famous scramble play. White’s initial coverage was solid. Anderson (outside left, on the bottom) runs a short route over the middle, underneath a pick set by Quincy Enunwa, but White dodges the pick and sticks to Anderson. After Darnold starts scrambling, a game of backyard football breaks out, and Anderson is able to separate from White to give Darnold an open target.
In total, Anderson caught 8/12 targets for 124 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games against White and the Bills.
Bills WR Cole Beasley vs. Jets CB Brian Poole
The Jets and Bills both added slot receivers in free agency this season, but they went in two very different directions.
Buffalo added former Cowboys slot man Cole Beasley, a veteran who brings reliable play in the underneath game, sure hands, durability, and experience, but lacks game-breaking upside and is on the wrong side of 30. The Jets went with Jamison Crowder, who has dealt with slightly more injury issues and is more susceptible to drops and down games, but is a lot younger and has showcased more versatility and a much higher ceiling.
Beasley was a solid choice to supplement the development of Josh Allen. Having a veteran with good hands who can consistently get open in the short range will be a helpful asset as Allen looks to make big strides as a passer in his second year.
In his Bills debut, Beasley will be seeing a lot of another slot player who moved from the NFC to the AFC East in free agency — Brian Poole, the new primary slot cornerback for the Jets.
Poole clashed with Beasley twice during his time with the Falcons. Beasley was mostly held in check across those two games, registering a combined total of seven catches for 74 yards and only three first downs. Against Poole’s coverage, Beasley picked up just one first down across four targets (dropping one pass).
Which of these three matchups is most important for the Jets to win?
This poll is closed
Kelvin Beachum vs. Jerry Hughes
Robby Anderson vs. Tre’Davious White
Brian Poole vs. Cole Beasley