...things happen due to the roster demands placed on teams by having players
return from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The Patriots have a
couple players that fit that category, including LB Matt Chatham and rookie
draft pick, RB Cedric Cobbs.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Linebacker Matt Chatham, who spent the first six weeks of the season on the
Physically Unable to Perform list, returned to practice Wednesday and could
be activated to the 53-man roster any time between now and Nov. 9.
The Patriots placed rookie wide receiver P.K. Sam on injured reserve this week
with a groin injury and Chatham is likely to be activated in time for the Jets
game. Chatham is one of New England's better special teams players and his return
will give the team a boost in the kicking game.
Sam was the sixth receiver, but was pressed into playing time when injuries
hit the wide receiver position. He played in two games, but did not have a reception
before injuring his groin and going on IR. Sam also missed much of training
camp with a hamstring injury.
--LB Mike Vrabel might see his load lightened this week with Chatham's return.
With the Patriots struggling in kick coverage over the first three games of
the season, Vrabel was asked to step in and contribute in the kicking game.
He's able to contribute on special teams because of the Patriots outside linebacker
rotation that includes Willie McGinest, Rosevelt Colvin and Vrabel, which allows
the coaches to better manage defensive playtime. Chatham should fill Vrabel's
role as a kickoff wedge buster on the inside of the coverage team.
--S Eugene Wilson has struggled at times this season when it comes to providing
deep help for a corner on his half of the field. The Jets, and Chad Pennington
in particular, exploited the Patriots in that regard in their last win in Foxborough
in 2002 when Victor Green was filling that role and it led to a pair of long
touchdown passes. Wilson will be tested Sunday.
--DL Jarvis Green continues to get work as a nickel rusher up front for the
Patriots, but his production hasn't been there. The Patriots are relatively
thin up front and Green is trying to rekindle his 2003 AFC Championship Game
performance when he notched three sacks of Peyton Manning. Green has just seven
tackles and one zero-yard sack while playing upwards of 100 defensive plays
through five games. The line rotation features Green, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Keith Traylor. The group as a hole has been quiet, but
no player more so than Green.
--RB Kevin Faulk will continue to see his offensive role expand this week. Corey Dillon entered last week with a foot injury and suffered a stinger vs. Seattle.
Faulk will be needed in the passing game, but will have a tough matchup against
the Jets fast linebackers. New England may split him out of the backfield when
it goes to a four-wide formation with a tight end in for protection. Faulk has
five catches for 51 yards in his two games back, including four for 37 yards
against Seattle last week.
--WR Deion Branch remains doubtful on the injury report and will not likely
play against the Jets as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered
--WR Troy Brown remains questionable with a shoulder injury that has kept him
out of the last two-plus games. He missed portions of practice Wednesday and
is a long shot to play.
--CB Tyrone Poole also missed some portion of practice Wednesday with a knee
injury that forced him to miss the Miami game two weeks ago and half the Seattle
game last week.
--FB Patrick Pass missed a portion of practice with a thigh injury suffered
against Seattle. His return was announced as probable last week, but he never
re-entered the game. He will likely sit out the Jets game.
--T Tom Ashworth appeared on the injury report for the first time this season
as questionable with a back injury. He missed some portion of practice Wednesday
after missing a huge portion of training camp with the injury this past summer.
The severity of the injury isn't known, but the Patriots are thin at tackle
behind Ashworth and Matt Light.
GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Patriots have to establish Corey Dillon early
against an aggressive front that will come after Tom Brady looking to rattle
the Patriots quarterback, who is short two of his favorite targets in Branch
and Brown. Brady's ability to not only get the ball out quickly this week, but
also accurately could prove to be the difference in the game. The Jets have
seven interceptions in five games and their pressure along with speed and tight
coverage makes their defense similar to Miami's in the way it can pressure an
entire offense across the field. The solution to that is to use Dillon to slow
the defense and take advantage of the play action opportunities he provides.
The Jets have a fast defense, but it's not overly big and the Patriots have
to get physical on offense while trying to keep Brady upright. He has taken
some big hits over the past couple of weeks and one has to wonder if the cumulative
effect of those hits will begin to affect his psyche.
Defensively, New England has its hands full trying to pick its poison. That
said, it must stop Curtis Martin first. That means using Rodney Harrison in
the box and locking Ty Law up against either Santana Moss if he plays or Wayne
Chrebet is Moss sits out. The Patriots have to limit yards after the catch that
have hurt them badly this year and force Chad Pennington to check down rather
than attack down the field. Don't expect a heavy dose of blitzes, but when they
do come, they will be off the edges looking to make Pennington step up rather
than run outside the pocket where his mobility and ability to throw on the run
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets C Kevin Mawae.
Wilfork is the Patriots top tackler among defensive linemen with 24, but he
is about to get his first taste of Mawae, who is arguably the best center in
football. Wilfork needs to hold his own to prevent Curtis Martin from breaking
through the line and out to the edge of the defense where he can make big plays.
If Wilfork can't handle Mawae, the Patriots will have to adjust by crashing
down inside and Martin will have a field day on the perimeter against a defense
that's more tough than fast.
Patriots LT Matt Light vs. Jets DE John Abraham. It's another in a long line
of tough matchups for Light, who has held his own against Jason Taylor, Dwight
Freeney, Aaron Schobel and Grant Wistrom. Abraham has seven sacks in five games
and he will beat Light on at least a couple of occasions. If those plays result
in big plays for the Jets defense, it will sway the outcome of the game.
INJURY IMPACT: With Branch and Brown likely to miss another game, the
onus once again falls on David Patten and David Givens to play a big part in
the passing attack along with Faulk and tight end Daniel Graham. Faulk will
also fill in as a kickoff returner if Patrick Pass (thigh) is unable to play
while Faulk and Rabih Abdullah handle Pass' backfield responsibilities. Abdullah
is probable with an arm injury and did not miss practice time Wednesday.
If Tom Ashworth can't play, Brandon Gorin will get the start, which could be
trouble for New England since Shaun Ellis would have a huge advantage over Gorin
in that matchup. With Adrian Klemm already on IR, an injury to Ashworth that
keeps him off the field will leave the Patriots a play away from trying to plug
a tackle spot with either a guard or a combination of tight ends. Christian Fauria or Jed Weaver could back up Gorin, who would move to left tackle if anything
happened to Matt Light. Poole could miss his second game in three weeks as he
tries to fight through a knee injury. He played on it last week, but was lifted
in the second half. Asante Samuel will start in his place with Randall Gay and
Dexter Reid coming on as the extra defensive backs in nickel and dime packages.
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