The New York Jets roll into New England coming off an upset win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots are the other side of the coin, coming off a win where they squeaked by the Buffalo Bills in a game they were supposed to win handily. Both teams played Sunday and are playing on a short week. That’s not to be understated as it makes it harder for both teams to install a full week’s worth of the playbook. That means there will be plenty of plays that teams never got to run in practice this week but will have to execute in the game.
The Jets’ front seven pretty well handled an thin Buccaneer offensive line in week one. In place of OLB Quiton Coples, Antwan Barnes looked like the player teams always thought he could be. Good coaching and lining up behind Sheldon Richardson, Muhammed Wilkerson, and Kenrick Ellis really helps, too. Barnes will get the start with Coples out again this week. The Jets did a good job of blitzing linebackers from different spots with scrape exchanges all game. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine may have left for Buffalo but this is still Rex Ryan’s defense. Unfortunately, for the Jets front seven, the Patriots offensive line is one of the best in the league and is very well coached. The Jets probably won’t come with anything the Patriots haven’t seen, but they may be able to win with sheer talent. LT Nate Solder had some issues with pass blocking this preseason and at times in week one. He’ll need a good night to keep Brady comfortable in the pocket. The Patriots run a very good mix of zone and power up front and this isn’t a finesse offensive line. They will run power out of shotgun and bury defenders who are out of position or with bad technique. There’s some complexity to their blocking schemes as everyone on the line will be asked to pull on the run as well.
On the outside, the Jets’ secondary will matchup well against the Patriots wide receivers. Slot WR Julian Edelman will move all over the place as the Patriots’ “Joker” tonight and I think Kyle Wilson is the guy that aligns over him most of the night. CB Antonio Cromartie should see a lot of Kenbrell Thompkins tonight and possible Aaron Dobson who is active for his first game. Thompkins is smooth in his deciphering and decisions on option routes and uses very good feet to be sharp in those routes. Dobson is more of a size guy who has a massive catch radius and very strong hands. Thompkins didn’t have a great game last week versus the Bills but he was targeted 14 times. He only had 4 receptions but there were some tough catches in there that would have been hard for any WR to bring in. Brady trusts him and that’s good enough for me. Leon Washington may see some snaps at RB or in the slot with Shane Vereen out. He doesn’t have the juice he used to have but he’s still a good receiver who could find some spacing against the Jets’ linebackers. Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui will be the tight ends that the Patriots lean on. Sudfeld had a strong preseason but tanked in week one. Hoomanawanui is a guy that is good at finding the open zone behind the linebackers and attack the seems, albeit with average athleticism for the position. He always seems to come up with a TD in games like these.
On defense, the Patriots play a lot of cover 2 and rely on their front four to get pressure. Chandler Jones is a phenomenal talent at defensive end but he’s frustrating to watch because he rarely uses his speed and power to overtake an offensive tackle. He’ll use hesitation to setup the blocker and then club or rip around him, usually ending up at the QB a fraction of a second to late. Rob Ninkovich on the other side is savvy in his skills at getting by the blocker and plays much bigger than his size. Inside, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly could pose some serious problems for the Jets’ interior offensive line who seemed to have problems with Gerald McCoy (who is a damn good player in his own right) last week. Vlad Ducasse probably won’t (and shouldn’t) be left alone to block either Kelly or Wilfork. RG Willie Colon could have the same issue. C Nick Mangold will be an important part of this offense and will provide needed help for both guards tonight. Last week, Geno Smith did help adjust protection calls (not sure if he’s fully in charge of them, though) but I suspect Mangold’s experience against the Patriots will help make sure protections are set correctly. Chris Ivory’s style of running should play well against the Patriots defensive front seven. The linebackers attack downhill and Jerrod Mayo is very skilled at seeking out the ball carrier. Ivory’s attacking style will force the linebackers to make quick decisions and Ivory will likely leave a few caught out of position or grasping for air because they can’t press the hole fast enough. Also, on passing plays, expect the RBs to play an important role in pass blocking.
A lot of times on Sunday, the Jets only sent three receivers out into routes which obviously is a small number of targets for a rookie QB to throw to. At wide receiver, the Jets had an awful time getting separation against a very good Tampa secondary. The Patriots corners are a solid group, but the weak link is probably SS Steve Gregory. This has been a weakness for New England for awhile and Jets’ new addition TE Kellen Winslow can help exploit that. He’s more of a crosser or an out route runner and less of a seam runner which means we may the Pats playing more single-high safety coverages tonight with more guys in the box to defend Winslow and the run. I would think the Jets try to create some mismatches in the slot with WR Jeremy Kerley or Stephen Hill’s athleticism on linebackers. And if they can catch a play where Gregory is the primary defender on one of those guys inside, Geno has to take that chance every time.
Last week against the Bucs, the Jets had a very tight leash on QB Geno Smith early on. Routes were very short and very contained. His reads were defined and he wasn’t really asked to key more than one or two players on defense. Geno missed a few of those reads and it’s still very hard for him to come off that first read. If the Patriots are able to take away the first read it can cause Geno some uncomfortableness in the pocket. Geno completed 63% of his passes but his yards per attempt was only 6.7.
I expect the Pats to really put the pressure on Geno early and to try to take away the short quick throws. New England’s corners matchup well against the receivers of the Jets (most secondaries do). The Patriots’ front seven is so good against the run they won’t have to add extra help there but they will likely need some added pressure inside to help get Geno off his spot. On offense, I expect Thompkins to play a vital role tonight. He’s smooth off the line of scrimmage and if he can get some separation against Cromartie the Jets will be doomed. Stevan Ridley’s fumblitis was probably only a one game anomaly and he’s still the favorite in the backfield for New England. But the again, it’s Bill Belichick and anything can happen. The Patriots will probably win this one with a little bit of ease and Ridley should get his carries in the second half. WR Aaron Dobson could be a sleeper in this game to grab a TD or 2 in the red zone.by