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Scouting The AFC East: New England Patriots
Our first look at the teams who share the division with the Jets and how they match up with them heading into 2010:
Offense – Tom Brady didn’t have his best season in 2009 after returning from ACL surgery, however he still was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL and should be better in 2010 with a full year after the procedure under his belt. However, it remains to be seen when Brady’s top target, Wes Welker, will return from his knee injury and how effective he will be. Randy Moss was either hurt or just being lazy for long stretches of last season. The Patriots are hoping young receivers like Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price will adequately fill in for Welker until he returns and then become productive slot receivers behind him and Moss. Torry Holt was also signed this off-season but I don’t know how much he has left in the tank. It could be Joey Galloway 2.0 for the Patriots. At tight end, New England drafted two guys known for their pass catching ability in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and signed veteran Alge Crumpler for blocking purposes.
The Patriots have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, although it isn’t as dominating a unit as it used to be. Their biggest problem on offense is the lack of a number one running back or even a back who can stay healthy. Laurence Maroney has been a disappointment and you have a better chance of seeing Rex Ryan beat Santonio Holmes in a 40 yard dash than seeing Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris make it through a full year without getting injured.
You have to feel confident about how the Jets match up against New England’s offense in 2010. They did a good job of getting to Tom Brady last season and that will only be aided by the addition of Jason Taylor. Wes Welker killed the Jets in 2009 but they now have Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson to throw at him instead of Dwight Lowery, Lito Sheppard, or Drew Coleman. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jets let Darrelle Revis match up on him and let Cromartie cover Moss. The Jets don’t have Kerry Rhodes at safety anymore, which means Laurence Maroney shouldn’t be running anybody over on our defense this season.
Defense – Yes there is still talent on the New England defense and they are still coached by Bill Belichick but they aren’t the same type of unit they were in years past. They maintained their personnel from 2009 despite their struggles against both the run and pass. First round pick Devin McCourty should help at corner and Darius Butler has some potential but overall the New England secondary isn’t a scary group. They are going to have a tough time matching up with Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, and Santonio Holmes (in the second meeting). They have always had a tough time covering Dustin Keller and that shouldn’t change this season either.
Mark Sanchez threw away the game the Jets lost to New England last season. If he can protect the football, the Jets should be able to run the ball against the Patriots and pick their spots down the field. Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are still a handful up front but Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore can hold their own. I am sure Belichick will scheme up ways to attack Vladimir Ducasse but hopefully the Jets are prepared to counter his moves.
Special Teams – McCourty will be a big addition for the Patriots on special teams on all of their return and coverage units. Stephen Gostkowski is a quality kicker. However the Patriots did have their struggles with the Jets on special teams last season.
Overall – When you look at the Jets roster compared to New England, the only glaring advantage for the Patriots is at the quarterback position which is a testament to the work done by Mike Tannenbaum. The games against New England will always be a battle but the Jets have showed over the past few years they can beat them at home and on the road. I think the Dolphins will be the Jets top challenge for an AFC East title but the Patriots won’t be far behind.
Jets vs. Patriots 2009 Highlights