5 things to watch as Jets face Chargers in Week 9 of 2023 NFL season

The Jets improved to 4-3 on Sunday with an improbable come-from-behind win over the Giants, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll win again Monday night with another sloppy performance against the Los Angeles Chargers. Although they are only 3-4, the Chargers have a talented roster, and the Jets are a three-point underdog heading into this game.

Here are the biggest stories to watch as the Jets look to improve to 5-3 on the season:

What will the Jets do at center?

The Jets somehow overcame injuries to both starting center Connor McGovern and his backup, Wes Schweitzer, in Sunday's game, but their absence could be something opposing teams look to exploit in the weeks ahead.

Ideally, the Jets would hope to have rookie Joe Tippmann back from the quad injury which caused him to miss the Giants game, but his status is unclear heading into Monday night's game. Tippmann acquitted himself well at right guard prior to getting hurt, but these will be his first regular season reps at the center position.

If Tippmann can’t go, the Jets could turn to Xavier Newman again. Newman was elevated from the practice squad to provide cover at guard, but unexpectedly found himself at the center position for more than half of Sunday’s game. The team struggled to run the ball and gave up a lot of pressure with him in that unfamiliar role. The good news is that at least the Jets don’t have to face Dexter Lawrence again this week.

Other options are Chris Glaser, who was recently poached from Dallas having played 49 preseason snaps at center with the Jets over the past two seasons, and Jason Poe, who is also on the practice squad. Otherwise, the Jets may be preparing some of their players who have never played the position for emergency duties.

Can the Jets dial up some big plays against a struggling Chargers secondary?

Statistically, the Chargers have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL and have been giving up a lot of big plays. The Jets have been reticent to attack down the field for most of the season, but surely must be placing an emphasis on Zach Wilson pulling the trigger when downfield opportunities arise on Monday night.

Despite their struggles, the Chargers have some talent in the defensive backfield. Asante Samuel Jr. has two interceptions already this year and Wilson will need to be aware of where Pro Bowl safety Derwin James is at all times. Analytics suggest that the Chargers have been better in zone defense than man coverages, so the Jets must be prepared to attack when they get one-on-one matchups.

Will Gang Green be able to stop the Chargers’ offensive playmakers?

The Chargers have plenty of offensive firepower which could present a challenge to a Jets defense that has played well during the current three-game winning streak.

Keenan Allen may be one of the league’s most underrated receivers, as he is well on his way to a sixth Pro Bowl appearance with 54 receptions already this year. Their biggest threat might be Austin Ekeler, though. The running back rushed for over 900 yards, caught 107 passes, and scored 18 touchdowns last season and will be a constant threat in the screen game.

The Jets should also be wary of the 6-foot-8 Donald Parham in the red zone. The tight end has four touchdowns already this year and the Jets have been giving up a lot of touchdowns to opposing tight ends.

Can Mekhi Becton neutralize Joey Bosa again?

One of the best games of Mekhi Becton’s career came in his rookie season when he didn’t give up a single pressure against the Chargers. In that game he had several reps where he handled Pro Bowler Joey Bosa well, gaining a lot of confidence and plaudits from the performance.

Bosa often plays most of his reps on the left side of the formation, so could end up matched up with Max Mitchell more than Becton, but there will still be some key plays where he rushes off the blind side, so Becton will need to be ready for him. Even when Bosa is on the other side, Becton will still be challenged by Khalil Mack, who had six sacks against the Raiders earlier in the season but otherwise only has one sack in their other six games.

Are the Jets going to continue to hurt themselves with poor discipline?

The Jets’ defense played superbly against a short-handed Giants offense on Sunday, but their poor discipline almost ended up costing them the game.

The Jets gifted the Giants five of their 12 first downs on penalties including two big ones to extend the drive on which Tommy DeVito scored what almost proved to be the winning touchdown in the third quarter. Quincy Williams had two personal fouls and Jermaine Johnson had one as the Jets racked up 75 penalty yards in the first 36 minutes of the game.

To their credit, the Jets displayed better discipline thereafter, with only two more five-yard penalties the rest of the way. However, one of these was again costly as Micheal Clemons jumped offside on a 4th-and-5 punt. The energy and hustle displayed by the Jets’ defense is impressive, but they need to maintain their control and composure to optimize their chances.