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6 key matchup points for Bills at Jets | Scouting Report

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Three things to know about the Jets

1. Lots of Bell

Even though much has been made of the progress in Sam Darnold’s game as he enters his second professional season at quarterback for the Jets, it is anticipated that the focal point of New York’s offense will be RB Le’Veon Bell.

To say that Bell has fresh legs would be an understatement coming off a 21-month layoff from real football. Jets head coach Adam Gase said Bell told him this week to “not hold back,” meaning Bell wants a heavy workload on Sunday versus the Bills.

Jets head coach Adam Gase also plans to use tempo as a weapon with his offense, where they’ll hurry up to the line for quick snaps on plays during certain series based on down and distance and location on the field.

2. Shorthanded at linebacker

The Jets’ will be down two starters at the second level on defense. Starting ILB Avery Williamson was lost to a season-ending ACL injury was a major blow to their front seven. Five-year vet Neville Hewitt is expected to replace him in the lineup.

Meanwhile starting OLB Brandon Copeland will miss the first four games this season due to a PED suspension. Harvey Langi is expected to start in his absence.

3. A very green punt returner

Buffalo’s punt coverage unit will be facing a very inexperienced punt returner on Sunday. Braxton Berrios, who was just picked up off waivers by the Jets after he was released by the Patriots, has been appointed New York’s primary punt returner.

A sixth-round pick of New England in 2018, Berrios spent his rookie season on injured reserve. So Sunday’s game will be the first regular season game of his NFL career.

Berrios did get some punt return work with New England in the preseason with five returns for 46 yards (9.1 avg.).

He also popped up on the team’s injury report with a hamstring injury. If for some reason he can’t go WR Jamison Crowder would get the call.

Two Critical Matchups

4. Jets defensive line vs. Bills offensive line

For an offensive line that will be 80 percent new, the Jets will be a heck of an opening test for Buffalo’s front five. New York’s hybrid 3-4 front features Pro Bowl DE Leonard Williams, NT Steve McClendon and DE Henry Anderson. First-round pick Quinnen Williams doesn’t even start with this group. He’s McClendon’s backup.

The Bills line has jelled quite well despite all the different combinations that have been rotated in and out. Coach McDermott said himself that establishing the line of scrimmage will be a big part of having success on offense.

5. Le’Veon Bell vs. Bills run defense

Buffalo’s run defense finished 16th in the league last season. They would’ve finished considerably higher in the league rankings were it not for three big rushing days surrendered to Indianapolis (220), Jacksonville (226) and New England (273).

The last time Le’Veon Bell faced the Bills was as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 where he ran for 236 yards by himself on 38 carries and had three touchdowns.

The Bills run defense looked stout in the preseason. They’ll need to bring that effectiveness and consistency to the field on Sunday against one of the best backs in the league.

Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice as they prepare for Week 1 against the New York Jets.

One thing that could decide the game

6. Big play ability of Bills

The improved big-play ability of the Bills with the addition of John Brown and the deep speed of Robert Foster could give Buffalo a key edge in this game. The Jets’ defense is strong up front, but on the back end they’ve been trying to piece things together.

Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is likely to bring tons of varied pressures in an effort to help his cover men in the secondary, but knowing Josh Allen’s ability to buy time and extend plays he should be able to connect on a couple of big plays that could be the difference in the game.

Undercurrents

--It’s anticipated that Jets starting CB Trumaine Johnson (hamstring) and starting WR Robby Anderson (calf) will be available to play Sunday after missing most of the preseason with injuries.

Both players were limited in practice Wednesday.

--New York lost Pro Bowl K Jason Myers in free agency this past spring, then veteran signee Chandler Catanzaro up and retired in the preseason. The Jets cut his replacement Jason Bertolet, who struggled in the preseason and signed Kaare Vedvik off waivers after he was cut by Minnesota.

Vedvik, a Norwegian born kicker, was 1-4 on kicks for the Vikings in the preseason. With a new snapper and holder and a week to prepare it will be a brand new operation in Week 1.

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