Now that the page has been turned to Week 2 and another New York opponent, this matchup looks much different than many of us thought it was going to be when we first saw it on the schedule. With Aaron Rodgers no longer in the picture, it is former first-round pick, Zach Wilson’s group going forward. Taking nothing away from Wilson who deserves his respect, it just goes without saying that he doesn’t present the same challenge that future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers would have.
The Jets offense will now be a run-first group and will lean on Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall to carry the load for the group. The Jets plan for Wilson will be to play smart complementary football, not turn the ball over, and keep the game within reach as the Jets stellar defense and rushing attack looks to take control.
Obviously, this is a much different plan of attack than the one they were hoping to implement with Rodgers under center, but it is their new reality and things change quickly in the NFL. For the Cowboys, it’s a change in defensive strategy as well. While you always want to emphasize defending the run every week, it’ll be an even bigger focal point for this defense come Sunday, and gives defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins an opportunity to make a massive impact in the interior.
Johnathan Hankins is ridiculous! Fights through a double, gets held, splits the double and makes a tackle on Saquon Barkley. pic.twitter.com/9AhfIr28aj— Matt Owen (@ProfessorO_NFL) September 14, 2023
Week two player spotlight
One of the biggest points of focus for the Cowboys defense was recognizing, and fixing, their leaky run defense. The team used a first-round selection on defensive tackle Mazi Smith and re-signed Johnathan Hankins to add beef in the interior. Both guys, as well as others, will need to step up in a big way in Week 2.
Big Johnathan Hankins deserves a shoutout for his play doing the dirty work on Sunday. If he can maintain while Mazi continues to improve, then DAL's IDL is in good shape this season. #Cowboys— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 12, 2023
It isn’t a hard plan to figure out, but nonetheless it will be a key factor on Sunday - stop the run and you’ll win the game. The Jets ran the ball 28 times on Monday night compared to just 21 pass attempts from Wilson. The split may be similar or even more run leaning going forward, and with two dynamic running backs to hand the ball off, it would be foolish to do otherwise as currently constructed.
Johnathan Hankins has made a career out of shoving offensive linemen into the lap of the ball carrier, and it's nice to see he's still got it! pic.twitter.com/r01k1DFoP4— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 13, 2023
The game plan seems simple enough for the Jets, but it takes talent to execute, and the Jets biggest weakness is on the offensive line. The Jets offensive line has yet to face a defensive front as deep and skilled as the Cowboys and it will be a huge x-factor to watch for on Sunday. While the Jets offensive line fairs better in the running game versus in pass protection, it’ll be a matchup worth watching this week. Forcing to Jets offense to play behind the chains will be the goal. Forcing the ball into Wilson’s hands could be an issue for the Jets and both teams recognize that.
Rodgers or not, the Jets offensive line has not been good. Next week could be another opportunity for the Dallas front to shine.— Kyle Youmans (@Kyle_Youmans) September 12, 2023
Hankins numbers will never be gaudy - it’s the nature of the position, but his presence and performance can play a huge factor in Sunday’s outcome. The Cowboys came into the season knowing that the run defense needed to improve and this is the first real chance for the defensive unit to show that they have turned the corner. Look for Hankins and company to be a force in the interior, clogging running lanes, and being a menace for the offensive line, forcing the game into the hands of Wilson. And if so, advantage Cowboys.