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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: New England Patriots

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NFL: New York Giants at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, the Jets traveled to New England and predictably lost in a game that was over by halftime. However, it’s a very different Jets team that will face them at Metlife Stadium on Monday night.

Let’s assess what’s changed on the New England side of the equation since that first meeting.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady had a poor game a few weeks ago against the Bills, but he has bounced back with two 300-yard games in the Patriots’ last two wins. Nevertheless, he’s not been at his best, having thrown interceptions in each of the last three games.

He also has only three touchdown passes in those three games, all against Washington. However, he has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games against the Jets. The Patriots have won those games by a combined 85 points.

Rookie Jarrett Stidham saw some reps in relief of Brady in the previous game against the Jets but was promptly benched after throwing a pick-six to Jamal Adams and has only thrown one pass since then.

Offensive Line

Despite losing a couple of projected starters, New England’s offensive line got off to a pretty good start, but has struggled a little over the past two weeks with Brady being sacked seven times.

Marshall Newhouse, who stepped in for the injured Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, has given up a team high three sacks, while guard Shaq Mason has given up 15 pressures already, having only surrendered a total of 20 all last year. Replacement center Ted Karras has also had some issues in pass protection with three penalties.

At right tackle, Marcus Cannon has only given up one sack and has done well in the running game along with Mason and Karras. Left guard Joe Thuney continues to be solid in pass proection but less so in the running game. He gave up his first sack in 30 starts against the Giants last Thursday.

Backup tackle Korey Cunningham saw action in one game but hasn’t played since, while reserves James Ferentz and Jermaine Eluemenor have only seen brief action. Eluemenor sometimes gets snaps as an extra tight end.

The only change to the personnel since the first meeting between these teams has been the release of Caleb Benenoch, leaving them with just eight linemen on the roster.

Running Backs

The only change at the running back position has been fullback James Develin and his replacement Jakob Johnson going onto injured reserve. They will use their tight ends in that role going forwards.

This has affected their running game, as Sony Michel is averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry so far, although he has rushed for three touchdowns. He doesn’t have a 100-yard game yet, having posted six last year. He’s been better since the game against the Jets though, where he was held to 11 yards on nine carries.

James White is the Patriots’ best pass catcher out of the backfield, with 31 catches to date, while reserve Rex Burkhead has been a useful change of pace. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has 14 catches. However, Burkhead was ruled out on Sunday.

Brandon Bolden has also made some contributions, including a three touchdowns on just 17 touches. However, third-round rookie Damien Harris is yet to contribute.

Receivers

The Patriots haven’t made any personnel changes at wide receiver since they last played the Jets, but their depth chart now lists Josh Gordon as a starter rather than Phillip Dorsett. However, Gordon was injured in the last game and has been ruled out.

Julian Edelman is the other starter and leads New England with 38 catches and 449 yards. Dorsett leads the team with three touchdown catches and Gordon is second in yards and receptions.

With rookie first-rounder N’Keal Harry still on injured reserve, the two undrafted rookies - Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski - round out the rotation. They have 10 catches between them.

New England has made a couple of changes at the tight end position since the teams last met, with veteran Ben Watson being re-signed and ex-Jet Eric Tomlinson also added. They’ll need both as Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo have been ruled out.

Izzo and LaCosse had combined for just nine catches, but those plays averaged almost 19 yards.

Defensive Line

The Patriots have completely re-configured their depth chart in light of recent personnel changes, but it currently doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. They were previously listed as a 4-3 defense but have subsequently changed their official depth chart to a 3-4 configuration.

Veteran Michael Bennett, who had a sack in the previous win over the Jets, has seen his playing time dwindle and has now been suspended for insubordination caused by frustration at his role. The Patriots currently list him as the only backup at right defensive end behind John Simon, which is laughable because Simon has only played outside linebacker this season.

In reality the Patriots will play a mixture of defensive fronts, as they usually do, with Simon getting reps off the edge along with the likes of Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich and Shilque Calhoun. The rookie Winovich has four sacks but Wise has been generating the most pressure off the edge.

On the interior, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy are listed as starters, but Adam Butler has been producing well off the bench and has played more snaps than either of them. Guy has fallen off a bit after his unexpectedly productive first year with the club but has still been solid.

Fifth-round rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart has barely played off the bench.

Linebackers

Jamie Collins was listed as a back-up when the teams last met, but again that was curious because he’s played the most snaps of everyone on the front seven. He’s now listed as a starter and is arguably a contender for the defensive player of the year as he leads the team in tackles and has six tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, three interceptions, a fumble recovery, four passes defensed and a defensive touchdown.

He’s not the only Patriots linebacker capable of scoring touchdowns, though. Kyle Van Noy had one last week and also scored against the Jets in last year’s season finale. Van Noy, who has 3.5 sacks, has been extremely productive as a blitzer, as he’s averaging almost one pressure per five pass rush attempts.

Elandon Roberts is still listed as a starter but Ja’Whaun Bentley has actually played more snaps than him this year. Dont’a Hightower is the other listed starter in this extremely strong group.

Defensive Backs

At cornerback, pro bowler Stephon Gilmore is leading the way, as he’s having a great year. However, veteran starter Jason McCourty and reserves Jonathan Jones and JC Jackson have all also played well and posted solid coverage numbers.

While Jackson is considered the weak link, he’s allowed just eight catches on 20 targets and has two interceptions. Gilmore leads the team with four penalties, while the other three have just one each.

Once again, the rookie reserve - Joejuan Williams - barely gets to play as the top four have all played at least 200 snaps.

At safety, Devin McCourty is doing a good job once again, as he’s leading the team with four interceptions.

Patrick Chung is listed as the other starter but third safety Duron Harmon has actually played more snaps than him so far. Ex-Jet Terrence Brooks has also been getting some reps.

Third-stringers Nate Ebner and Jordan Richards have so far only been used on special teams.

Special Teams

Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve so the Patriots kicker is now former Jets’ bust Mike Nugent who has already missed two kicks.

Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been performing well, though. He’s also handled kickoffs since they signed Nugent.

In the return game, Olszewski is now listed as the return man on both kickoffs and punts, despite his muff that led to a Jets touchdown. Bolden has been getting most of the work on kickoffs though.

Seven-time pro bowler Matthew Slater showed that he is still a top gunner by downing a punt at the one-yard line in the Jets game. However, their leading tackler is actually Gostkowski, which is not a good sign.

Finally, the rookie Winovich had a touchdown on a blocked punt in the Giants game.