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Patriots vs. Bills: Three to Watch on Defense Against Buffalo

As the New England Patriots prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills in Week Thirteen of the 2021 season, Patriot Maven highlights three defensive players on whom Pats fans might want to keep watch.

The New England Patriots are traveling north to Western New York for a Monday night date with quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Monday’s Week Thirteen matchup will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York at 8:15pm ET.

Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Monday’s matchup, here are three players on defense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Bills.

Christian Barmore

Barmore’s ability to push the pocket and take a stand against the run has earned him many well-deserved accolades. Despite dealing with a knee injury for more than a week, the Pats’ rookie has become one of the team’s premier defenders. He plays with good leverage, and is strong enough to take on double-teams. He locates the ball quickly, chases with good effort and has excellent range for his size. Barmore, also had demonstrated quick hands, which has made him effective in both stuffing the run, and challenging the passer.

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Over the past few weeks, Barmore has drawn the attention of opposing blockers along the offensive line. As a result, Patriots’ linebackers and edge rushers are often left one-on-one on the edge. This has freed linebackers, such as Matt Judon, to pursue the quarterback. Against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Barmore took on up to four blockers at one point, leaving Judon alone to gain the sack on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. While Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen has the ability to find success on the ground, as well as through the air, Barmore will need to pull upon his dual threat capabilities to be a disruptive force against Buffalo’s versatile offense.

Adrian Phillips

Phillips continues to be one of the Patriots’ most reliable defenders. The 29-year-old ex-Charger has compiled 33 solo tackles, 5 passes-defensed and four interceptions on the season thus far. Still, his greatest asset remains his versatility. Phillips has nicely settled into the ‘Star’ role in the Pats defense. As such, he is primarily used as a hybrid box safety, capable of playing outside linebacker in most defensive schemes. However, he is also far from limited to that role. Phillips is more than capable of aligning along the defensive line, at slot corner and even outside-wide.

Still, Phillips is at his best when playing in the box. He is a strong tackler with decent speed, and is most effective when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. As such, he is the ideal defensive back to cover a tight end, or a running back out of the backfield. With fellow safety Kyle Dugger unlikely to suit up on Monday night, Phillips is likely to draw the majority of his coverage duty on Bills’ tight end Dawson Knox. In the Pats’ December meeting with the Buffalo in 2020, Phillips held Knox to zero catches, providing solid coverage in the red zone, as well as the intermediate part of the field. As a result, Phillips may be one of the key components in determining the Pats’ defensive success on Monday night.

Myles Bryant

While Dugger’s potential absence will put additional pressure on the Patriots’ ability to defend tight ends, they will also have a tougher time with defending Bills’ slot receiver Cole Beasley. As one of Buffalo’s most productive offensive targets, Beasley ranks second on the team with 62 catches, and third with 530 receiving yards. In an attempt to contain him, the Pats are likely to turn to slot corner Myles Bryant.

Following Jonathan Jones’ season-ending shoulder injury in October, Bryant has been the Pats’ primary option at slot cornerback. The hard-hitting defensive back has continuously played a versatile role with New England. In addition to the slot, he has taken snaps at free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback and perimeter cornerback. He has even taken limited snaps on the defensive line. With the Pats expected to heavily employ multiple defensive backs against one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Buffalo’s Josh Allen on Monday, Bryant should provide some versatility to the Patriots defensive backfield, seeing the majority of his snaps in the slot.