LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor: If you’re the Jets’ defense, you have their names mentally highlighted, circled in red marker and underlined three times. Because if this team is going to defy expectations and beat the Bills on Sunday, it will no doubt be due to their best unit doing their utmost on the Bills’ two biggest weapons.
“We’ve been studying our opponent and our team feels really prepared right now and I have pretty good confidence in our guys’ preparation,” Jets defensive end Leonard Williams said Friday. “Our main thing is stopping Shady McCoy. He’s a really good running back. We just have to stay gap sound and do our jobs — don’t try to be a hero and do somebody else’s job, just do our job and we should be good.”
The Jets have historically had success against their neighbors up north, but a win on Sunday will be an especially large psychological boost. The Bills are beatable, despite the Jets’ somewhat uninspiring roster, and though it is Week 1, thanks to a Patriots loss and the Dolphins’ hurricane-induced postponement, a win here puts them atop the division. Sure, it means nothing — unless, that is, you’re on a young team that some expect to lose every game this season.
“It sounds great,” Williams said of the division lead. “Every division game is the most important . . . It’s also our first game so whatever team we’re playing, we’re going to be expecting to get the win.”
So the goal Sunday, first and foremost, is to stop McCoy, the deceptive running back-cum-magician who’s just so good at making something out of nothing. Bills coach Sean McDermott said earlier in the week that McCoy’s presence was so vital, he might very well play every snap this season. He had 13 touchdowns last year, with 1,267 yards on 234 attempts.
“We’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to him,” Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “He’s one of the best backs in the NFL. Then you have Tyrod, who excels at throwing the deep ball, then also can hurt you with his feet . . . Do you want to put everybody down to stop Shady and then have a chance for the ball to go over your head? It’s going to be a fine line. That’s where they pose a problem.”
It’s a pick-your-poison situation, but because the Jets still seem to be figuring out their identity offensively, there’s little room for mistakes. Taylor, who was questionable earlier in the week but then passed concussion protocol, can be an all-or-nothing quarterback. He’s a deep-ball threat but had a 61.1 percent completion rating last year. He threw for 3,023 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions, and ran for another 580 yards and six touchdowns. The key here is to keep pressure on the pocket, Williams said, but also make sure he doesn’t scramble and create a play that isn’t there.
McCoy, meanwhile, is “a very dynamic back,” Jets edge rusher Kony Ealy said. “He can take it coast-to-coast, sideways-sideways. When you’ve got a type of back like that, you just really gotta overprepare for him and just gotta kinda make sure you’re in the right place at the right time.”
Added Williams: “I think it’s his vision that makes him so dangerous. As soon as he gets the ball, he knows exactly where to go already. Why I say we should stay gap sound and do our own job is because oftentimes he’ll hit the backside gap when you know the play is designed to run frontside. He’ll jump backside and that’s where he messes up a lot of defenses — just doing our jobs and standing in our gap.”
Notes & quotes: Safety Rontez Miles (eye) and tight end Jordan Leggett (knee) will not play Sunday.