They may play hard but they're still the Jets


They may play hard but they're still the Jets

Record: 5-10
Last week: 14-7 loss to Chargers
Previous three: 1-2 (win over Chiefs, losses to Saints and Broncos)
2016 record: 5-11
Coach: Todd Bowles
Offensive coordinator: John Morton
Defensive coordinator: Kacy Rodgers

The Jets have already exceeded every expectation for this season. Vegas set their projected win total for 2017 at 4.5 and they’ve been a five-win team since knocking off KC a few weeks back. But that is thanks to their lightning-hot start. When last seen by the Patriots, the Jets were 3-2. They are 2-8 since but the only time they were pummeled was their 23-0 loss to the Broncos. Bryce Petty’s been the starter the past two weeks. Christian Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016, has yet to play in an NFL game but he took first-team reps in practice on Wednesday. The biggest question surrounding the Jets is whether Todd Bowles will be back for a fourth season. The Jets have played hard for Bowles. But he’s 10-22 over the past two seasons. They have good, young talent on defense, but there have also been head-scratching decisions by Bowles during his run. A blowout for Bowles may seal his fate.

The Jets aren’t in the top 10 in a single offensive category. But wide receiver Robby Anderson (62 catches for 939 yards and seven touchdowns) has had an eye-opening season and Jermaine Kearse (60-751-5) and tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (50-357-3) have also had their moments. Bilal Powell is a competent running back.

Quarterback play is a problem. With Josh McCown lost for the season, Bryce Petty is completing just 47.4 percent of his passes and has three picks and a touchdown. He’s thrown for 312 on 76 attempts. That’s a poor YPA. The Jets also allow sacks at a good clip. They’ve allowed 43 this year. They are not closers. They’ve been outscored 137 to 64 in the fourth quarter of this season.

The Jets have beaten the Patriots twice since 2011, both games in overtime, both games at MetLife Stadium. They haven’t beaten the Patriots in a regular-season game at Gillette since Matt Cassel was the team’s quarterback in 2008.

Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

FOXBORO - Dont'a Hightower was among the missing during Tuesday's OTA that was open to reporters. He was prominently featured on the team's website as a participant in Thursday's OTA, though.

It's a positive development for one of the Patriots best and most versatile defenders. Hightower tore his pectoral in October and missed the remainder of the 2017 season, leading to some shuffling of personnel both at the second level and on the edge. 

Hightower snagged one of the team's photos of his participation in Thursday's workout and slapped it on his Instagram page. 

Hightower's presence on the turf behind Gillette Stadium, even if he was limited in the practice, allows our minds to wander a bit and look ahead to what the Patriots depth chart might look like at linebacker with him in the fold. 

The Patriots are consistently altering their fronts and Hightower's adaptability allows his role to change with whatever scheme Bill Belichick deploys. 

Hightower can play on the line or off. He can be used as a "Sam" linebacker at the second level in a 4-3 or at the end of the line of scrimmage in 3-4 looks. He played on the left end early last season - a spot we identified yesterday as a potential landing spot for Derek Rivers. And if the Patriots needed Hightower to play as a "Mike" linebacker, he has the ability to do that as well. 

Sub packages, base packages . . . Hightower can line up in a variety of front-seven spots for the Patriots regardless of the situation, which is why when healthy he's been able to serve as an every-down player. (He played 92.4 percent of Patriots defensive snaps in 2014 and 83.1 percent of the snaps in 2016.)

How might the rest of the Patriots linebacker corps slot in if Hightower is a full go for training camp? Let's take a look . . . 


Kyle Van Noy is probably the closest approximation to Hightower that the Patriots have on their roster. When Hightower went out last season, it was Van Noy who moved around the front seven and handled a variety of responsibilities. He's probably best suited as a "Will" linebacker, someone who can use his athleticism to make plays in different areas depending on the situation, but Van Noy's ability to handle multiple responsibilities in New England's defense is part of the reason why the team likes him as much as they do. He was handed a two-year extension early last season. 


Elandon Roberts often handled the "Mike" responsibilities in the Patriots defense last season. The third-year player out of Houston might have the inside track on this role in 2018, but he could be pushed by rookie fifth-round selection Ja'Whaun Bentley out of Purdue. Both players seem like they're at their best against the run game, unafraid to fill their lanes as prideful "thumpers." What may separate this duo is which player can more consistently cover the correct gaps on first and second down, and which player more effectively communicates the defense to their teammates around them. Whether either player can contribute on special teams could also alter how the workload is distributed here. 


Van Noy would likely be the first choice here for the Patriots, but there are a few others who could be angling for time here. Marquis Flowers re-signed with the Patriots this offseason after an impressive end-of-the-season run where he showed up as a pass-rusher with enough athleticism to be trusted to run with backs in the passing game. Flowers was also a key contributor on special teams last season. Rookie sixth-round pick Christian Sam could also compete for "Will" reps. A defensive back in high school, Sam bulked up at Arizona State but remains a good athlete and could be a fit behind Van Noy. Special teamers Nicholas Grigsby and Brandon King work out with the linebackers and could be options here if they were ever called upon defensively.


NFL owners words not consistent with their actions with new anthem policy

NFL owners words not consistent with their actions with new anthem policy

Chris Gasper and Michael Holley talk about the inconsistent messaging from NFL owners to their teams' players after they unanimously voted to change the league's policy regarding the national anthem. Watch the video above.