After suffering an alarming, uncharacteristic loss against the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots took the week off as they had a much needed by bye week. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time as the Patriots were dealing with a handful of injuries ranging from the offensive line, Rob Gronkowski, and Sony Michel. The Patriots offense has not clicked over the last few weeks like fans have become accustomed to seeing, but some of the blame can go on the injuries the Pats have suffered.
The Patriots should be close to full health when they travel to New York to take on the 3-7 Jets, who are riding on a 4-game losing streak. Let’s take a dive into the makeup of the Jets roster:
At quarterback, the Jets drafted the University of Southern California product Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold has faced his fair share of rookie struggles throughout his first season as he is only completing 55% of his passes while throwing for 1,934 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Unfortunately Darnold will be out on Sunday as he deals with a foot injury, so that will thrust 16-year veteran quarterback Josh McCown into the starting role. In week 6 of last season, McCown gave the Patriots defense trouble as he threw for 354 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in a close duel that ended in a 24-17 Patriots win. McCown is an experienced player that has the ability to pick apart a defense and lead an offense. A 41-year old Tom Brady against a 39-year old Josh McCown is the second highest combined age of starting quarterbacks facing each other, so Sunday’s game should be headlined as “The Battle of the Grandpa’s.”
The running back position for the Jets is lead by Isaiah Crowell. Crowell spent his first four seasons as a member of the Cleveland Browns before signing a 3-year, $12 million contract with the Jets last offseason. So far this season Crowell has put up 552 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing while adding 13 receptions for 111 yards. Crowell is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season, which ranks 11th in the league out of all running backs.Keeping Crowell in check should be a focal point for the Pats on Sunday, as taking away New York’s running game will make it much more difficult for quarterback Josh McCown.
The wide receiving core for the Jets is made up of Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. Anderson is a speedy, big-play threat that can torch defenses consistently. In week 6 against the Colts he put up 123 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 3 receptions, which shows his big play ability. His numbers this season compared to his 2017 campaign are down, but that can be partially because of the QB struggles the Jets have faced this season.
Enunwa is a big bodied receiver that can cause miss matches with smaller opposing cornerbacks. His 225 pound frame allows him to break off of arm tackles and pick up extra yardage. Enunwa missed all of the 2017 season with a neck injury, and his bounce back year probably isn’t what he hoped it would be. He has 29 receptions for 345 yards and a touchdown so far this season, and like Anderson, his numbers are down from last year.
Eric Tomlinson is the starting tight end for Jets. The third year player went undrafted in 2015, and then bounced around a few teams until he signed with the Jets. Tomlinson is used more in the run game than in the passing attack, as throughout his 3 years on the Jets he only has 15 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown. He stands at 6’6 and weighs 263 pounds, which makes it difficult to get off of his blocks.
The offensive line for the Jets is average at best. They have allowed 24 sacks this season, which is tied for the 20th most in the league. Right guard Brian Winters and left guard James Carpenter are players to watch for. Winters is a Kent State alumni who has been with the Jets since 2013. He is a solid run blocker that can take some of the credit for the 4.8 yards per carry that running back Isaiah Crowell is averaging. Carpenter joined the Jets in 2015 after a 4 year stint in Seattle. He has been incredibly reliable since joining New York as he has played in every game since joining the team. With that being said, his status is up in the air for sunday as he deals with a shoulder injury that may cause him to miss his first game in a Jets uniform.
On the defensive line, the main player to now is defensive end Leonard Williams. The Jets drafted Williams with the 6th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had major praise for Williams over the years, as he has called Williams a “big problem” and “one of the best defensive lineman we’ll see all year.” He was nominated for his first Pro Bowl in 2016 after a monster year in which he 68 combined tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 19 quarterback hits. Williams has the skill set to give an opposing quarterback headaches all game, and it will be key for the Patriots to know where he is lined up on every play.
Darron Lee and Avery Williamson share the limelight when it comes to the linebacking core for the Jets. Lee was drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and has made a major impact on defense ever since. Throughout his career he has 225 combined tackles, 4 sacks, and 11 quarterback hits. Lee has great speed and vision and has a knack for getting after the ball carrier. Williamson also obtains solid speed that lets him get after the ball carrier. He joined the Jets this past offseason after spending his first 4 season with the tennessee Titans. His 455 combined tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 25 quarterback hits over his career show how dominate Williamson can be on defense.
The secondary for New York is lead by cornerback Tremaine Johnson and safety Jamal Adams. The Jets signed Johnson to a mega deal this past offseason, as his 5-year, $72.5 million contract made him the second highest paid cornerback in the NFL. So far this season Johnson has only tallied one interception and 16 combined tackles, but he has missed 5 games due to injury. He is an elite cornerback that takes away an opposing team’s number one option at wide receiver. Jamal Adams was the 6th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and was rated the top safety coming out of college that year. He has played in every game since getting drafted by the Jets and has made an great impact to the defense. His 149 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6 quarterback hits are a big reason why the Jets have the 13th ranked defense this season.
Sunday’s matchup in New York will be the first of two games these teams will play against each other over the next 6 weeks. It will be the first time in about a month that the Patriots offense will be at full strength, so it will be intriguing to see if they can return to their normal form. This game in no cake walk though, as Tom Brady has had his fair share of struggles in New York. Since 2013 he has completed 117 of 200 passes (58.5%), thrown for 1,183 yards, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. If the Patriots can establish the run game earlier, then that should open up the passing game for the rest of the day. On defense the Patriots should try to force McCown into difficult situations in order to cause turnovers. Overall, this should be divisional game dog fight between these two rivals.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr