The New England Patriots and New York Jets are set to meet for the first of two meetings in 2021.
The Patriots travel to the ‘green side’ of the Meadowlands, New Jersey as they will take on the 0-1 Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at 1:00pm ET on Sunday, September 19. Like their opponents, the Pats are seeking to avoid an 0-2 start, as well as the cellar of the AFC East.
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players on defense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Jets.
With linebacker Kyle Van Noy sidelined for Sunday with a throat injury, Uche is a likely candidate to see the majority of his snaps. In a 2020 season that was largely unkind to rookies, Uche was one of the few that made a positive impression. New England opted to use the Michigan product both as an edge defender and an off-the-ball linebacker during his first season in the system. Due to his success in each role, the Pats are still expected to deploy him similarly in 2021. However, Uche has both the athleticism and system savvy to be used as a pass-rush specialist or a true every-down move linebacker. Against the Dolphins, Uche earned both one tackle, and a sack on Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In Van Noy’s absence, the 23-year-old will likely be called upon to assist in generating sacks and setting a stout edge against the run. Uche has the skillset to play on the line in most any defensive alignment, and should be able to find his share of open lanes against a struggling Jets offensive line.
Despite seeing action in only 6% of the Patriots defensive snaps in the season-opener, the 29-year-old defensive end has the potential of being an asset to the team’s front seven on Sunday against his former team. Throughout training camp, Anderson routinely demonstrated an ability to apply pressure to the quarterback, while quickly getting into position to stuff the run. Anderson had the third-highest run-stuff rate among players with at least 500 defensive snaps in 2020. His presence should help to bolster a Patriots line, which had its problems against the run. Anderson also is also capable of providing assistance with rushing the passer as well, notching seven sacks and 16 quarterback hits in 2018, as a member of the New York Jets. His versatility has the potential to earn him a prominent role along the interior of the defensive line, alongside Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy in week two. As a team, New York amassed only 45 yards on the ground against the Panthers last Sunday, largely in part to below-average run protection. As a result, Anderson may get to test his skill against the Jets running backs.
While Mills has evolved from a traditional outside cornerback to a defensive back capable of aligning in each spot within the secondary, he has been called upon to play a more specialized role; at least to begin the 2021 season. In 2020, he regularly moved between box and free safety as well as perimeter and slot cornerback. Against Miami, Mills started the game alongside J.C. Jackson, as the team’s second outside cornerback. The 27-year-old finished the day with 2 tackles, and an impressive pass-breakup in the endzone. Still, there were times where he had some difficulties with man coverage. Though he struggled a bit in that role, Mills should still see considerable playing time on Sunday. Look for him to align as the Patriots’ third perimeter cornerback; while also seeing limited snaps in the slot and at safety. similar to the role played in the past by Jason McCourty. Some of the criticism, which he received this week, may add a bit of extra motivation for Mills to perform at a high level in week two.