Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing Week 1 with Jets Wire

·3 min read

The 2021 regular season is here and the Carolina Panthers will be kicking off the campaign against the visiting New York Jets this Sunday. And even though these are two different teams in two different conferences from two different regions, they may have a bit more in common than you think.

To get an inside look at that and what could be in store for the Panthers in Week 1 and beyond, we spoke with Gary Phillips, managing editor of our friends over at Jets Wire.

What, if anything, did you see from QB Sam Darnold in New York that could give Panthers fans hope for a career turnaround?

Not much, honestly. The Jets set Darnold up to fail with the personnel they surrounded him with, but he did little to help himself during his three years in New York. There were flashes of brilliance here and there, but he was still making rookie mistakes last season. If anything, Darnold will be better because of those around him; he has actual weapons and some competent offensive coaches for a change.

Conversely, what have you seen so far from the Jets’ current QB Zach Wilson that should give their fans hope about his future?

The Jets do this song and dance every few years, so I’m hesitant to say fans should feel one way or another before a 22-year-old plays his first real NFL game. That said, Wilson looked sharp in the preseason, showing a grasp of Mike LaFleur’s offense, a connection with Corey Davis and some serious arm talent. Those were encouraging signs.

The Jets’ secondary is probably the team’s most glaring weakness, one Darnold and the Panthers will obviously look to exploit. How dire is that situation heading into the opener?

The Jets’ corners really put the green in “Gang Green.” This is an incredibly young and inexperienced group, and there are going to be serious growing pains. Robert Saleh seems content with this being a developmental year for that position, which features a handful of rookies. Some, like Brandin Echols, looked sharp this summer, but we’ll see how that translates to games that matter.

The Panthers recently extended a pair of key veterans in OT Taylor Moton and WR Robby Anderson. Are there any veterans worthy of new deals with the Jets?

There are hardly any veterans on the team. Of the few that are there, most were brought in this offseason. Marcus Maye didn’t get his extension done before the franchise tag deadline; he and the Jets could go through that process again after the season. It’s hard to see New York giving him a long-term deal at this point, though.

Panthers DE Brian Burns is poised to have a breakout year, perhaps making a leap towards stardom in 2021. Which Jets player, if any, do you see potentially making a similar type of jump this season?

Rookie WR Elijah Moore is going to make a huge impact early on. He may need a few games to get situated after missing the entire preseason with an injury, but fans are going to be wondering how he fell to the second round by season’s end.