Patriots

5 Jets players to watch against the Patriots, including QB Zach Wilson

"You've got to be sticking to your receivers...he's looking to launch that thing."

Patriots Zach Wilson
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. AP Photo/Brian Westerholt

If we’re being completely honest: no, the Patriots should have no problem beating the Jets on Sunday.

New England’s division rival to the south looks primed to be one of the worst teams in the league once again in 2021, partly due to crippling injury luck and partly because they just didn’t have much talent to begin with.

New York’s defense couldn’t stop former first-round pick Sam Darnold from exacting his revenge with a fairly nondescript Carolina Panthers team in Week 1, and the offense, while boasting the team’s potential quarterback of the future in Zach Wilson, needs a lot of work before it’s ready for prime time.

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Still, here are four players the Patriots should circle in their film rooms this week as they prepare to dispatch the lowly Jets.

Zach Wilson, QB

Expect there to be plenty of comparisons on the telecast between Wilson and Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who was taken 13 slots after the No. 2 overall pick Wilson in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But aside from them being first-round picks who are now starting as rookies, the two could hardly be more different.

Jones relies largely on pinpoint accuracy, anticipation and pre-snap reads to succeed rather than raw physical skill – something he has much less of than the other four quarterbacks taken ahead of him in the draft. Those things certainly served him well in an encouraging NFL debut against an aggressive Dolphins defense.

Wilson, on the other hand, has pure arm talent on the level of Patrick Mahomes and loves to break the pocket and move. He can seemingly launch the football out of the stadium and can deliver a catchable ball from just about any throwing platform you can draw up. Even some of his incompletions are impressive (not least because Jets receivers dropped five passes from him last week for a whopping 20 percent drop rate).

“You don’t really know what Wilson has in his tool bag. So you’ve got to be sticking to the receivers and play the whole down through because he can escape the pass rush, and he’s looking to launch that thing,” said safety Adrian Phillips of Wilson, who the safety added can “throw the ball a mile.”

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That said, the cannon-armed quarterback will give Patriots linebackers, corners and safeties chances to make plays on the football because he trusts his arm so much.

As Phillips alluded to, New England defenders can’t afford to fall asleep for any length of time on any receiver. No matter where they are on the field, Wilson can find a way to get it to them.

If they can make Wilson hold the football for long enough, there’s a good chance he’ll eventually force throws he shouldn’t attempt much as Tua Tagovailoa did last week.

He hasn’t been quite as reckless as his college reputation suggests, but last week showed he’s plenty capable of making mistakes.

Corey Davis, WR

Davis got a three-year, $37.5 million bag from the Jets this offseason and showed off his chops as New York’s top dog in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, catching five passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

The Jets’ No. 1 receiver won’t blow you away with his timed speed in a 40-yard dash, but his game speed and acceleration in pads stands out, especially once he has the football in his hands.

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He’s certainly a cut above either the Dolphins’ DeVante Parker or Jaylen Waddle, who both gave the Patriots problems last week.

“He’s an outstanding player,” coach Bill Belichick said of Davis. “Catches the ball and makes a lot of contested catches. Tough guy to tackle. Good blocker. He really competes hard. Does everything well.”

“I’d say [Davis’s] ability to run routes is the first thing that pops off the tape for me,” said cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino on Tuesday.

Davis’s first touchdown grab against the Panthers was an example of that, as he expertly broke off his route and came wide open as Wilson scrambled from the pocket.

He and the explosive Elijah Moore, who didn’t do much last week but is something of a discount Jaylen Waddle, are two guys the Patriots can’t afford to let loose this week.

John Franklin-Myers, Edge

Free-agent edge rusher Carl Lawson’s season-ending injury has made Franklin-Myers that much more important to an embattled Jets defensive front.

He stepped up as New York’s best defensive player in Week 1, registering four pressures, a sack and two stops, including a big tackle for loss.

Moreover, he primarily lined up last week as an outside edge rusher to the left, which is where Emmanuel Ogbah had a big day against Patriots backup right tackles Justin Herron before Yasir Durant came into the game.

Assuming Trent Brown is unable to play this week — he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice (calf strain) — Franklin-Myers could get more chances to excel against second-stringers on New England’s offensive line.

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The Patriots’ offensive line allowed nine hits on Mac Jones last Sunday and will need to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Though the Jets don’t have an elite stable of edge rushers on the whole, Franklin-Myers deserves their attention.

George Fant and Morgan Moses, OL

New England wasn’t the only team that lost a starting tackle to injury last week.

The Jets lost their starting left tackle Mekhi Becton to a dislocated kneecap in Week 1, meaning he’ll be out for about 4-6 weeks. That mishap will likely slide Fant, the team’s starting right tackle, to the left side, with Morgan Moses coming off the bench to man the right side.

On one hand, such a move puts Fant and Moses at their natural positions, and both have plenty of starting experience. So it wouldn’t be a similar situation as, say, moving Liam Eichenberg from right to left tackle just before his first NFL game as Miami had to do before Week 1.

But as with last week, the Patriots need to take advantage of the offensive line shuffling and generate strong pressure on Wilson.

The pass-rushing trio of Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Josh Uche all made impact plays off the edge against the Dolphins and should be a major factor once more against the Jets. Interestingly, New York was one of the few teams to allow their quarterback to get hit more than the Patriots did, with the Jets surrendering 10 quarterback hits and six sacks to the Panthers defense.

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New England couldn’t get to the quick-throwing Tua Tagovailoa last Sunday, so the defense, with those edge rushers at the helm, will be looking to improve on that in Week 2.

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