DETROIT — The Jets are very familiar with the other rookie making his debut Monday night, and he’s very familiar with the Jets.
Matt Patricia will coach his first NFL game after spending 14 years on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England, the previous six as defensive coordinator. The Patriots went 10-2 against the Jets with Patricia running the defense, and allowed more than 17 points just twice in their last seven meetings.
Different team, different personnel and different schemes.
The Jets have a new zone-blocking system under their new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and run game coordinator Rick Dennison, and they’re entrusting rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to lead it.
The Lions went through some growing pains in the preseason, as they allowed an NFL-high 27.8 points. Their first-team offense didn’t score a touchdown.
Now that the real games start, and teams are no longer auditioning players, you can disregard some of that. If Patricia steals a page from his New England days, he will try to rattle Darnold with four-man rushes with five or six defensive backs on the field.
But Todd Bowles said when you go into the first game of the season “you have to expect the unexpected” since teams don’t always show too much in the preseason. Bowles said you watch film of last year’s Lions games’ and in this case some Patriots’ film to pick up Patricia’s tendencies.
“Just the basics,” Bowles said. “He's on his own and he's probably got things that he knows or wanted to try and wanted to do that is a little different from where he's been. So, you don't know. You teach your guys as best you can and they read their keys and they try and execute.”
Darnold, at 21 years and 97 days, will be the youngest Week 1 starting quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL Merger. Drew Bledsoe was 21 years, 204 days when he started for the 1993 Patriots. The next three youngest are Matthew Stafford, 21 years, 219 days (Lions, 2009), Jameis Winston, 21 years, 250 days (Buccaneers, 2015) and DeShone Kizer, 21 years, 251 days (Browns, 2017).
Darnold hopes to accomplish another feat and do something the other four QBs didn’t: Win his first game.
The Jets are expecting big things from second-year safety Jamal Adams. Defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson said the outspoken and brash Adams is “a more vocal guy,” but in a good way.
Wilson said Adams is maturing as a player.
“He communicates a lot better,” Wilson said. “He sees things quicker. He can anticipate instead of guessing. As long as he’s anticipating instead of guessing he’ll make more plays.
“Last year he was vocal but now he really knows what he’s seeing. There’s a difference between having energy and being vocal and having a thorough understanding of the defense, the calls on the defense where everybody’s at, and what the offense is trying to present. So he’s a lot better in that area.”
Adams was among the Jets leading tacklers last year, and he could be used in more safety blitzes this season. But he’s still looking for his first NFL interception.
In the Lions’ den
Stafford, who has thrown for at least 4,000 yards for seven straight seasons, owns one of the best quarterback performances in Monday Night Football history.
He was 22-for-25 with three touchdowns in a win over the Saints on Dec. 21, 2015. His 88.0 completion percentage is the second-highest on Monday night behind Rich Gannon, who connected on 89.5 percent of his pass attempts for the Raiders Nov. 11, 2002 against the Broncos.
If the Jets don’t put pressure on Stafford — their pass rush is a weak link — he could have another historic night.
Isn’t that special?
Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer admitted his concern level facing the Lions’ return teams is “huge.” The Jets gave up a 55-yard punt return to former Giant Hunter Sharp in the preseason, and the player they have to try to contain Sunday is far better.
As a rookie, Jamal Agnew led the league last year with 447 punt return yards — a 15.4 average — and two touchdowns, including an 88-yard score.
“Agnew is a hell of a player,” Boyer said. “We got to do a great job of trying to control him and getting him to the ground, because he breaks tackles and does a fantastic job.”
The Jets have two every-down backs in Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell, and quick and elusive rookie Trenton Cannon. When running backs coach Stump Mitchell was asked how he would use them, he replied, “Successfully.”
Inside the numbers
1-2: Todd Bowles’ record in Week 1 as Jets coach. The Jets have lost their last two.
2-0: Jets record when a they open the season with a rookie quarterback. (Mark Sanchez in 2009, Geno Smith in 2013).
3-1: The Jets record over the last 20 years when they opened their schedule against an NFC team.
31: The point-differential the last time the Jets played on Monday night. They lost 41-10 to the Colts, Dec. 5, 2016.
Kelvin Beachum: The Jets left tackle missed all four preseason games with a foot issue, and he was missed. But he’s healthy now and probably will be tasked with trying to keep Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah off of Darnold. Ansah had 12 sacks last year, including three in a game three times. “He’s a very disruptive pass rusher,” Beachum said. “I would say one of the best in the league. The NFC North presents a number of different animals on the edge. He’s one of those different animals. I’m excited to play him. I know it’s going to be a great test to start the year.”