New England Patriots: Devin McCourty and 4 Key Players Against the Jets
One of the best rivalries in football will be renewed on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Both defenses have some serious question marks. The Patriots appear that they, as Bart Scott would say, "couldn't stop a nose bleed."
On the other side of the ball, the Jets have been downright pathetic on offense. Their performance against the Ravens on Sunday night was pitiful.
Here are several key players heading in to Sunday's game.
The Patriots No. 1 cornerback has been less than impressive so far this season.
Devin McCourty shined in his rookie year, but so far this year he has struggled against team's No. 1 receivers. The Patriots secondary has struggled as a whole, but McCourty has been no where near the cornerback he was last year.
McCourty will likely be matched up with Santonio Holmes for the majority of the game. While Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has struggled this year, McCourty will still be looked at to shut down Holmes.
If McCourty can begin to move back to his potential caliber of play, it would do wonders for the struggling New England defense.
With Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer out for an extended period of time, first round pick Nate Solder has taken over starting duties.
Solder has been a force on the line in his short stint as Patriots starter. His most memorable performance was shutting down Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake on Monday Night Football Week 1 of the season.
The Jets have made it no secret that they plan to send a pass rush after Tom Brady.
It will be extremely important for the Patriots to protect Brady and give him time to find his receivers.
Rex Ryan will surely be planning to attack the rookie on the line. It will be crucial for Solder to perform well if the Patriots plan to find success in the passing game.
New England's running game has been decent enough this season, but not spectacular.
In all fairness, the Patriots haven't had the necessity to rely on the running game. However, rookie running back Stevan Ridley took center stage last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
He showed an explosive first step along with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
We saw a decreased role for both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. The Patriots will not hesitate to use the back that is the most productive.
It will be important for the Patriots to establish the run to keep the Jets pass rush honest. It appears as if Ridley is ready to take on more carries and if Belichick decides to play him heavily against the Jets, the load will be on his shoulders.
Look for New England to establish the run early. Otherwise, it could be a long day for Tom Brady.
Safety Patrick Chung returned to the Patriots lineup Sunday after being held out Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills.
Chung is one of the few impact players in the Patriots secondary. He can impact the game on both passing and rushing plays.
While he can not single-handedly make the Patriots pass defense shut down, he certainly has a big enough impact to slow a passing attack. He has a high motor that coach Bill Belichick always takes advantage of.
It will be crucial for Chung to be in there on the deep pass plays to Santonio Holmes and the underneath passes to tight end Dustin Keller.
Keller has become somewhat of a safety valve for Mark Sanchez. If you can take that away, you make his night much more difficult.
New England will need Chung to step up and bring his high energy play to limit the Jets offense.
The Patriots pass rush has not been much of a threat to opposing offenses so far this season.
One of the few bright spots has been Mark Anderson. Anderson had one very good year his rookie season with the Chicago Bears.
Since then he has been more of a journeyman. He leads the Patriots with two sacks this season and has been somewhat of a stand out.
New England should be taking notes after the Ravens performance against the Jets on Sunday night. The Ravens pass rush terrorized Mark Sanchez causing several turnovers.
The Patriots will need to put the same kind of heat on the Jets offense.
At this point, why shouldn't they? It is clear that dropping seven players back in coverage isn't working for New England, so why not try to go blitz heavy?
I expect to see Belichick try and unleash what little pass rush he has on the Jets this Sunday.
If successful, the Patriots could create some huge plays on the defensive side of the ball making their dominant offense's job much easier.
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