In preparation for tonight’s preseason opener at MetLife Stadium between the New York Jets and New York Giants, we’ve already listed a few storylines to watch including stars and under-the-radar names.
There are also a few head-to-head player matchups that really stand out. As we know, both teams plan to use this early face-off to develop younger players and determine the first round of roster cuts. The Giants, in particular, will likely sit plenty of starters like Daniel Jones and Kenny Golladay.
Having said that, the bulk of the action tonight may come from guys who are fighting for their lives out there on the field. That should create some dramatic television as football is in the air at long last.
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Jets-Giants Head-to-Heads to Watch out For: Starters
This portion will focus on matchups that should start the game, but may not last as deep into the action.
Mekhi Becton versus Leonard Williams/Oshane Ximines
The Jets’ former first-round pick in 2015 will face his old franchise for the second time since being traded across town in 2019. One of the main pieces that Gang Green drafted with the picks they got back in return, Ashtyn Davis, will not be suiting up on August 14. The other, Michael Carter II, will be playing in his first preseason game with the team.
Williams won’t be matching up with the nickelback though, he’ll likely line up between left tackle Becton and fill-in left guard Dan Feeney. The Giants will pair the 3-4 defensive end with outside linebackers Oshane Ximines and/or Lorenzo Carter.
Becton has been getting schooled by edge rusher Carl Lawson in training camp. Beat reporter Connor Hughes described it best on his Can’t Wait podcast, saying “this isn’t iron sharpening iron, this is like someone getting beat over the head with an iron bar every day.”
The left tackle has to prove that his camp performance is more a product of Lawson’s ability than his own deficiencies.
Bryce Huff/John Franklin-Myers versus Andrew Thomas/Matt Peart
Speaking of left tackles, the G-Men drafted one in 2020 as well. Thomas was selected at number four overall, seven picks ahead of Becton. 2020 third-rounder Peart is projected to start on the opposite end instead of veteran Nate Solder, according to the Giants unofficial depth chart.
This young offensive line has had even more issues than the Jets in recent years, and these two have to show that they can keep Jones upright in 2021. Their first big test will likely be Lawson, but who knows how many snaps the superstar edge rusher will play tonight. They should get more work against Huff and Franklin-Myers, who have been ferocious in their own right this summer.
Corey Davis versus James Bradberry
With Elijah Moore doubtful to play after a quad injury, the spotlight shifts to Davis at wide receiver — at least in the first quarter. He’s developed a bond with Wilson as a reliable safety net and red zone threat in camp, and he’ll look to keep that going while he’s on the field.
If he plays, Bradberry is the most likely cornerback to match up with Davis. The ex-Carolina Panther had an excellent year one in New York, with a stellar 79.8 player grade from Pro Football Focus in 2020 and a 79.9 coverage grade.
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Jets-Giants Head-to-Heads to Watch out For: Youth/Backups
Denzel Mims versus Rodarius Williams
This could be an intriguing battle that occurs after the starters take the bench. Mims has had a rough start to his sophomore season with an uninspiring camp that has contributed to his freefall in the Jets’ wide receiver ranks. To silence the outside noise, he’ll need to start stacking performances with more consistent play.
The narrative couldn’t be more opposite for rookie sixth-rounder Williams, who’s the brother of Cleveland Browns prospect Greedy Williams. The Giants corner has been a pleasant surprise this summer and has played well enough to be under consideration for a starting job, or at least a second-team backup role.
Jets Rookie Corners versus David Sills/Dante Pettis
One area that I’m especially excited to see live is this young Jets cornerback core. After Bryce Hall and Bless Austin get their reps in, the expectation is that rookies like Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols, Carter II and Isaiah Dunn (if healthy) will get as much work as possible in tonight’s preseason opener. Coach Saleh is hoping that one of these players can take on a starting role someday and August 14 is the first real audition in front of fans.
Don’t expect too much burn from the Giants’ first-team wide receivers based on head coach Joe Judge’s comments, but substitutes like Sills have turned some heads in camp. Pettis is also a talented wide-out that was a former starter in San Francisco, while Sills is more of a surprise that has been a bright spot all summer.
Hamsah Nasirildeen versus Kadarius Toney
My initial inspiration for this piece actually stemmed from an article I read from New York Post reporter Ryan Dunleavy, detailing the personal history between Jets rookie linebacker Nasirildeen and Giants 2021 first-round pick Toney. When the Florida State safety (at the time) tore his ACL, the tragic injury actually occurred when he was attempting to tackle Florida rival Toney.
The shifty receiver is dynamic after the catch and was actually drafted ahead of Ole Miss receiver Moore, who obviously ended up with the Jets. He’s had a rough training camp filled with injury and a stay on the COVID list, while Nasirildeen is currently listed to start at weakside linebacker for the Jets. A beautiful redemption matchup was fated to take place in this year’s MetLife Stadium clash before news broke that Toney probably won’t be playing.
Even if Toney does take the field, Nasirildeen told reporters that there’s no added rivalry between the two rookies. “I honestly just think he’s a good player and I like the way he plays the game, but I don’t concern myself with stuff like that, I’ve got to tackle people every day,” the Jets linebacker explained.
Toney head-to-head or no, Nasirildeen should draw plenty of eyes in tonight’s showdown.