Behind Enemy Lines: Packers look to rebound against up and coming Jets

Oct 2, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) celebrates a game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. The Jets won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) celebrates a game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. The Jets won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers are now back at Lambeau Field to take on an upcoming New York Jets team that also has a 3-2 record.

In order to gain some insight into this unfamiliar opponent, Justin Fried of The Jet Press was kind enough to answer five of my questions about the 2022 New York Jets. I also provided some of my own thoughts along the way.

What’s the big difference between this year’s Jets team and last year’s?

Justin: This year’s Jets team is simply a lot more talented than last year’s squad. General manager Joe Douglas has done an excellent job of introducing an influx of talent to this roster over the last couple of years, and we’re seeing the results in 2022. This offseason alone, the likes of Sauce Gardner, Laken Tomlinson, D.J. Reed, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Jordan Whitehead, and others were added to the team. They’ve helped pave the way for the Jets’ best start in years. Talent breeds wins, and the Jets have talent now.

Thoughts: There is a lot of young talent on this Jets team, and this group plays hard. Two of their three wins are fourth-quarter comebacks, so the Packers better be prepared to play a full 60 minutes, which unfortunately, has been an issue at times with this team taking their foot off the gas. As we saw last week when they dropped 40, this Jets offense has playmakers and the ability to put up points. Defensively, they have an aggressive secondary and a front seven that has been among the best in terms of run defense and getting after the quarterback.

What would you consider the strength of this Jets team?

Justin: On paper, the strength of this Jets team should be their pass rush. When the Jets’ pass rush is playing up to its potential, they can dominate and completely take over games, much like they did against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. Carl Lawson had a Jets-record seven QB hits. John Franklin-Myers had five QB hits. Quinnen Williams has been a top-four defensive tackle in football this year. Even Bryce Huff remains the NFL’s most efficient pass rusher when given snaps. This is a deep and talented crop of pass rushers. The Jets just need to see more consistency from the unit.

Thoughts: This is a Jets defense that has the fourth-best pressure rate in the NFL this season and will test the Packers’ offensive line that is slowly rounding into form. Success on the ground — which won’t be easy either — coupled with the quick passing game are two ways to mitigate the New York pass rush. In terms of completion percentage and yards per attempt when under duress, Aaron Rodgers has been a below-average quarterback this season–although the play at the receiver position has likely played a factor in those results.

On the flip side, what is the Jets’ biggest weakness?

Justin: On offense, the Jets’ biggest issue has been their ever-changing offensive line rotation. The team has suffered injuries to their top four offensive tackles this season and has been forced to rotate a new group of starters in each of the last four weeks. It’s difficult for the unit to establish chemistry with new starters being deployed each week. That said, they are coming off their best performance of the season, so there is reason for optimism. The switch from Joe Flacco to a returning Zach Wilson has also helped matters, as Wilson is mobile enough to avoid sacks and extend plays. Still, through five weeks, the injuries to the offensive line have most definitely added up.

Thoughts: The Packers’ pass rush will have to capitalize when Zach Wilson is back to pass. The Jets’ offensive line ranks 19th in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric, and Wilson, when under pressure, is completing just 18% of his passes at 2.9 yards per attempt with two interceptions. On the ground, New York is averaging just 4.1 yards per rush, but rookie Breece Hall has already showcased his big play ability this season and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

Who is one player on offense and one on defense that Packers fans may not be as familiar with but could make an impact on Sunday?

Justin: Sticking with the offensive line, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to Alijah Vera-Tucker. Vera-Tucker may not be a household name just yet, but what he’s done this season is almost unprecedented in the modern NFL. The 2021 first-round started his rookie year at left guard, switched to right guard this season, was moved to left tackle after injuries in Week 4, and finally started at right tackle this past week. Mind you, he had never played the position at any level of football in his life, yet he still played at a high level. Vera-Tucker is putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season and should become one of the more notable players on the Jets’ roster before long.

On defense, another player who has been one of the best at his position is D.J. Reed. Reed has statistically been a top-five cornerback this season, even outplaying fellow standout Sauce Gardner. Like Vera-Tucker, Reed isn’t a household name, but he’s a top-three player on this roster and a big reason the Jets’ pass defense is as good as it is.

Thoughts: Vera-Tucker has provided the Jets with some needed stability along the offensive line, playing 70 snaps at left tackle, 232 at right guard, and 59 at right tackle, according to PFF ($$). He has allowed 14 total pressures and one sack. Again, pressuring Wilson will be key for this Packers’ defense, especially in helping out their secondary.

Reed, meanwhile, has spent most of his snaps this season on the boundary and has allowed just 11 completions on 23 targets at 8.0 yards per catch, along with one interception and a pass breakup. As a group, the Jets’ secondary ranks second in interceptions and third in total pass breakups. They will challenge these Green Bay receivers.

What is your prediction for Sunday’s game, and how do you see it playing out?

Justin: The Jets aren’t a bad football team, and that’s the first time we could legitimately say that in a long time. That said, they’re facing a Packers team with their backs against the wall after their loss to the Giants last week. The Jets absolutely have a chance to win this game, given the flaws Green Bay has shown, but I can’t predict Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to lose consecutive games to the Giants and Jets, especially to the latter at home. This Packers’ defense is way too talented to perform at the level they have, and Rodgers knows what’s at stake in this game. I think the Jets put up a fight, but the Packers ultimately come away with the victory. Let’s call it 28-24.

Thoughts: I have no idea if playing in London last week will have an impact on the Packers’ performance, and as I mentioned in my first response, this is a talented team that will play hard for 60 minutes. So I do expect this to be a close game. The pass rush should be able to get after Wilson, and I’m hoping we see a more aggressive secondary, as Joe Barry alluded to on Thursday. When it comes to the offense, I trust Rodgers and Matt LaFleur to make the needed adjustments–these two are very good when bouncing back from a loss.

Packers 24 – Jets 20