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 offense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Jets.
Despite his high-profile sputter last Sunday, Harris will once again be the feature back for the Patriots in week two. His fumble in the fourth-quarter against the Dolphins was costly, but should not change the fact that the Alabama product had a very effective day running the football. Harris rushed for 100 yards on a career-high 23 carries in New England’s 17-16 loss. Still, the 24-year-old was his toughest critic; acknowledging that his miscue cost the Patriots the chance to win.
On Sunday, he will need to show resilience, as the Pats give him the chance for redemption. Fortunately for the Patriots, Harris is quite capable of demonstrating the on-field prowess and mental toughness to revitalize the Pats rushing attack against New York. Last season, he led the Patriots with 691 rushing yards on 137 carries last season, despite missing six games due to finger and ankle ailments that resulted in a pair of stints on injured reserve. Look for Harris to be the top option in New England’s running back rotation, seeing the majority of his snaps as an early-down option. However, Josh McDaniels may choose to utilize Harris in a handful of select series as a pass-catching option out of the backfield. Last season, Harris turned the initial five catches of his career into 52 receiving yards.
Bourne, perhaps, may be the Patriots pass-catcher with the most knowledge of the Jets defensive schemes. Having practiced against a Robert Saleh-designed defense in San Francisco, the 26-year-old is likely to recognize much of what New England may see on Sunday. While he only logged one reception for 17 yards on Sunday against the Dolphins, Bourne can be an effective target for Mac Jones, either in the slot or on the outside.
The versatile wideout is coming off of the most productive season of his four-year career. Appearing in 15 of the Niners’ 16 games, Bourne was targeted 72 times, compiling 49 receptions on 667 yards receiving. He ranked second on the team behind receiver Brandon Aiyuk in all three categories. He also scored a pair of touchdowns. Along with solid stats, Bourne also proved to be reliable when taking the field. He took 688 of a possible 1,096 offensive snaps, while making five starts for San Francisco in 2020. However, Bourne proved to be a starting-caliber player throughout the season, as well as a top-two wide receiver option for the Niners. On Sunday, Bourne should see a the majority of his time as the Patriots ‘Z’ receiver, while seeing some snaps at the ‘X’ role, as well.
Right Tackle, Offensive Line
With starting right tackle Trent Brown having been declared ‘Out’ for Sunday’s matchup, the Pats may once again turn to back up swing tackle Justin Herron. Listed third on the Pats depth chart at the position, Herron was Brown’s initial replacement against Miami. However, the second-year lineman struggled in an every-down role. He was eventually benched in the third quarter, after being flagged for holding and allowing a tackle-for-loss on a running play. Each miscue stalled a promising offensive drive, which culminated in a Patriots field goal. As a result, Herron was New England’s lowest-graded offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.
Should the Pats choose another option, the most likely candidate would be Yasir Durant. The newly-acquired lineman relieved Herron last Sunday, and performed well doing so. Durant allowed no pressures on 13 dropbacks in his 23 total snaps. At 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, Durant has the size and strength needed to fend-off more aggressive defensive linemen.
If healthy, Yodny Cajuste could make the start, as well. It should be noted that the West Virginia product has mostly played left tackle this summer, taking 74 snaps at the position in the preseason. He did, however, take 17 snaps at right tackle. Although he has been limited in practice with a hamstring injury, Cajuste could be a very intriguing option to fill in for Brown against the jets.
Of course, the Patriots could always turn to last season’s starting right tackle, Michael Owenu. Though the second-year lineman from Michigan has filled the left guard role in 2021, vacated by Joe Thuney, he did start 10 games at the position in 2020, and was PFF’s eighth-highest-graded tackle. Still, Onwenu has yet to see any practice time at the position, making him an unlikely choice.