It has been a few years since the Bengals played the Jets, and a lot has changed since then. For reference, the last time the two teams met, the Jets' leading receivers were David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley. The Bengals' top cornerbacks were Adam Jones and Terrence Newman.
Today, Adam Jones still leads the Bengals' cornerback position, but he is complemented by Dre Kirkpatrick with Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III waiting in the wings for their opportunity to showcase their talents. The Jets have a very different look these days with one of 2015's best wide receiver tandems in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
The Bengals and Jets will play each other in the first week of the 2016 NFL regular season. Depending on the way the Bengals' season goes, it could be a game that has plenty of Wild Card playoff implications down the road. But, the most interesting aspect of this game in Week 1 will surely be the matchup between the Bengals' cornerbacks and the Jets' wide receivers.
Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker
In 2015, no wide receiver tandem in the NFL produced more catches (189), yards (2,529), and touchdowns (26) than Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The pair really drove the Jets offense along with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and showed that the team was right to go out of their way to bring the pair together.
In 2016, they're looking to repeat that success. They hope that they can continue working with Fitzpatrick, despite his ugly contract dispute that has still yet to be resolved. The first team on their schedule is the Bengals, so you know they will be hoping to start the season off on a good note against a great secondary.
Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard
For the Bengals, 2015 was an interesting year at cornerback. Adam Jones made his first Pro Bowl due to his best defensive season both as a Bengal and as a pro. Throughout his career with the Bengals, he's primarily been known as a return specialist who can fill in at cornerback when necessary. But, in 2015 he proved that he can really make an impact as a cornerback by allowing a passer rating of 60.0 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks, according to Pro Footbal Reference. Being elected to his first Pro Bowl was just the icing on the cake of his best season.
Unfortunately, things weren't quite as consistently great for the rest of the cornerbacks. Dennard was experiencing an increased role in 2015, but a shoulder injury against the Cardinals ended his season. Kirkpatrick managed to play all 16 games and start 15 of them, but his generally mediocre play means he's going to have to fight to keep his starting opportunities going forward. Leon Hall played well in a reserve role, but it does not look like the Bengals are interested in re-signing him for 2016.
Who has the advantage?
It seems like a pretty safe bet that Adam Jones can keep up with Marshall. However, there's a bit of a question mark as to who will fill in that second cornerback spot to cover Decker. It's highly unlikely Jackson III will be ready for starting duties by Week 1. Dennard will probably be physically ready by Week 1. But, will his time off cause him to be a bit rusty out of the starting gate? Is Kirkpatrick being handed a starting job after a rough 2015 season?
There's so many things that could go right for that complementary spot next to Adam Jones, so this will definitely be one of the most interesting matchups of the whole week. With the help of the very talented George Iloka and Shawn Williams in the defensive backfield as well as a very well developed pass rush, there's no reason why the Bengals' cornerbacks can't win this matchup. But, for now, the fact that the Jets' tandem is already established is enough to give them the upper hand in this particular positional matchup. But, if Fitzpatrick isn't re-signed soon, all of that can change, too.