Curran's Patriots-Jets preview
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
It’s probably not going to be pretty. The Jets will do what the Bills had some success doing – jamming receivers, blitzing and trying to disrupt timing. The Patriots are going to have to continue their metamorphosis to a potent, wear-you-down, run-first team, especially with the number of offensive players dinged. There will be no Shane Vereen, no Danny Amendola, probably no Rob Gronkowski. Zach Sudfeld has a bum hammy and Aaron Dobson is trying to come back from his own hamstring issue. The only skill position players who haven’t popped up on the injury report are Kenbrell Thompkins and LeGarrette Blount (Ridley has a shoulder injury and Leon Washington has a leg injury). So what, then, is the Patriots’ strength? Running the ball. And that’s what the Jets did well against in their season opener against Tampa, holding Doug Martin to 2.7 yards per carry on 24 attempts. The Jets’ 3-4 front is young – rookie end Sheldon Richardson, third-year nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (along with second-year nose Damon Harrison) and third-year end Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets held Tampa to 250 yards of offense, forced seven punts, two fumbles and came up with a pick. Demario Davis, David Harris, Calvin Pace, Garrett McIntyre and Antwan Barnes are the key linebackers. The secondary has rookie Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie at the corners, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen at the safeties. The Patriots will need to make some plays downfield and on the perimeter to get the Jets to back off and cover sideline-to-sideline. Expect New England to keep working the tear screen game to Julian Edelman and – if Dobson is good to go – take advantage of his size on the perimeter. Dobson will have to play with some intensity because the Jets’ corners will try to knock him around.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Rookie Geno Smith led the Jets to the desired result last Sunday – a win – but his overall performance was spotty, especially when it came time to get rid of the ball. Smith took five sacks. While he did run six times for 47 yards, some of that was a by-product of not making it through his reads before taking off. The Patriots sat back and let EJ Manuel try to beat them with his arm. Manuel did a nice job. Smith is not known for the same type of poise, so expect the Patriots to disguise and lay back in coverage. The Jets, aside from Smith, had little success on the ground churning out 44 on 22 carries by backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. With Jeremy Kerley dealing with a concussion, the wideouts the Patriots will be dealing with are the aging Santonio Holmes and second-year burner Stephen Hill. The Jets have nothing resembling the offensive potency of the Bills. New England should cause a punt-filled night.
THE KICKING GAME
Nick Folk buried three field goals including the game-winner for New York. The Jets punter, Robert Malone, had an 85-yarder against the Bucs. With Kerley possibly down, Clyde Gates becomes the main punt returner for the Jets. Edelman will likely be the returner on punts for New England. Stephen Gostkowski had a game-winner of his own, and rookie Ryan Allen’s day was a mixed bag with a couple of decent punts and getting an errant snap down for Gostkowski on the kicker’s first field goal of the day.
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The Patriots are dinged up good, but so are the Jets with 21 players listed on their injury report to start the week. Who can go and at what level will be two big determinants in this one.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP . . .
The Jets front-seven. If they can cause Brady torment and bottle up the running game, it will make things easier on the New York offense which is going to struggle to sustain drives itself.
JETS GOTTA STOP . . .
Ridley. Or, if he is not the featured back and still in the doghouse, Blount. Bottle up the running game and put the Patriots in second-and-long and the depth and inexperience of the Patriots’ targets will be in the spotlight.
DON'T BE SURPRISED IF . . .
Despite consternation over the Patriots narrow win in Buffalo and all the injuries the Pats have, New England finds a way to throw the first punch at the Jets and get Geno Smith in chase mode.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“The great part is we have a chance to do something about it. So regardless of what anyone may say to us, or think, we have a chance to prove everybody wrong or right. That’s the great part about playing professional football, is you have the chance every week to back up what you think.” – Brady on doubters of the Patriots potency.
THAT SUMS IT UP JETS STYLE
“They are an extremely, extremely physical defense up front, and in the back end they are extremely smart. They know how to read routes. A lot of times they are playing zone and they are passing things off. They are constantly in good position. I’ve seen a ton of turnovers; they force a lot of turnovers. I think that’s going to be a key emphasis for us: just managing those situations, not turning the ball over and executing when we have the opportunity.” – Geno Smith on the problems posed by the Patriots defense.
AND THE WINNER IS . . .
Patriots 20, Jets 10