New York Jets 2021 opponent report: New England Patriots

There would be, perhaps, no better way for the New York Jets to open a new era than by ending their losing streak against the Patriots.

The Opponent: New England Patriots
The Dates: Week 2, September 19, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)/Week 7, October 24, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NE)*
The Series: New England leads 69-54-1 (last meeting: 2020, 28-14 NE)

*-(subject to flexible scheduling)

Year one of the post-Tom Brady era was a merciless kick back to reality for the New England Patriots. Yet, one tradition lingered from Brady’s historic tenure: beating the New York Jets.

For all the Patriots’ faults in 2020, they managed to keep their winning streak against the Jets alive, sweeping the annual pair for a fifth straight season. The Jets haven’t earned a sweep against New England since 2000…one year before Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe inadvertently shifted the course of NFL history. New England’s ten-game winning streak is the longest in the series that dates back to the days of the AFL, breaking a nine-game tally the Jets had between 1966 and 1970.

The Jets came close to ending the streak last season in a Monday night showdown in November at MetLife Stadium. New York, in fact, owned a two-possession lead entering the final quarter, but surrendered 13 points over the final six-plus minutes en route to a 30-27 defeat.

New York and New England also met in the final week of the season. Meaningless finales between the Jets and Patriots have been nothing new since the NFL instituted an all-divisional matchup slate for the last week, as New England would often rest starters going into the playoffs. This time, though, mere pride was on the line and the Patriots sent the Adam Gase era note out on an appropriate thud, topping the Jets 28-14.

Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny on the Patriots

Bill Belichick is burdened with a load he hasn’t had to deal with in a long, long time: something to prove.

Few can question the impact and legacy…more a path of destruction…that Belichick has left behind. But last season created the closest thing to a smear one can make on Belichick’s New England ledger: Brady moved on to Tampa Bay and immediately won another Super Bowl with Belichick over 1,300 miles away.

Belichick isn’t like Michael Jordan: he won’t publicly declare that he “took that personally”. But Brady’s instant success in a new locale has to be eating at him a little. Every eye in the football world will turn to Foxboro on October 3, when Brady and the Buccaneers arrive for a Sunday night visit. But the Patriots will have a spotlight on them all season after last season’s flop.

Despite the departure Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and recent retiree Julian Edelman, the Patriots still have leftovers from their most recent glory days. Sony Michel’s third season was cut short by bouts on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve, but he performed well over the final three games of last season (287 yards on 40 touches). Devin McCourty returns for his 12th season, flanked by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (the latter earning nine interceptions last season).

New York Jets, Hunter Henry
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in New England?

Belichick did what any supposed villain would do after getting wronged: he spent a lot of money in an attempt to get revenge. 

New England spent over $316 million in free agency endeavors this offseason, a project headlined by swiping the top two available tight ends. The post-Gronkowski situation was even more garish, as Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi united for only 238 yards on 15 receptions last year.

New England remedied this issue by brining in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, dedicating over $12 million in 2021 cap space to the former AFC foes. The Patriots have never been hesitant to use two tight ends, routinely pairing Gronkowski with names like Brandon LaFell, Martellus Bennett, and Aaron Hernandez. Expect to see them reemploy more 12 personnel sets with two elite names in tow.

On defense, the Patriots brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon. He’ll join  returnees Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower will re-don the Flying Elvis after one-year absences. Van Noy returns after one year with divisional rival Miami while Hightower opted out of last season in the midst of the health crisis. Speaking of front seven additions, the Patriots also added former Jet Henry Anderson, who never lived up to the $25 million extension granted to him in 2019.

No discussion about the post-Brady Patriots would be complete without looking at the quarterback situation. Cam Newton got off to a hot start but was never the same after missing an October game in Kansas City on the COVID-19 list. The 32-year-old Newton is projected to be the opening day starter but the Patriots used April’s 15th overall selection on Alabama thrower Mac Jones.

When it comes to the quarterback’s targets, the Patriots appear to be moving on from first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers returns for his third season after a breakthrough year in the slot (729 yards), while team added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor from the west cost.

(Photo By Streeter Lecka)

How to Beat Them

-Wow, What a (Pass) Rush 

The home opener against the Patriots will be an early test for the Jets’ revamped pass rush.

Even Brady finds himself flustered by a strong backfield invasion; if not for that of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, he might have a Super Bowl ring for every finger. The Jets played a rare role in a Brady denial during their most recent playoff triumph: on that magical evening in January 2011, the Jets took down the arguable GOAT five times.

No matter whom the Jets face under center, they have to up the pressure. Newton can still move around as he gets deeper into his 30s…he scored two on the ground in the first meeting last season…but this isn’t the same Newton we saw during his Carolina heyday. New England was 3-6 when teams blitzed on at least 25 percent of Newton’s snaps last season. The pressure situation should only increase with Jones in tow, as there would probably be no better way to welcome the national champion to the NFL than a relentless rush.

The Jets know just how important pressure will be. Their most impactful 2021 contract is Carl Lawson’s three-year, $45 million deal that lured him away from Cincinnati. Enough has been written about how Lawson has made a defensive impact despite pedestrian sack totals. The early showdown with the Patriots will give him a perfect opportunity to back the early praise up.

-Push the Patriots off the Pedestal 

The horrors that the Patriots have subjected the Jets to could qualify as the stuff of urban legends at this point. November’s aforementioned Monday night loss, for example, was a positive in mere sense that it was the Jets’ first one-possession loss since the infamous Austin Seferian-Jenkins incident in 2017.

Nothing would symbolize a new era of Jets football better than taking down the hated Patriots. So desperate is the metropolitan area for a sports celebration…the Canyon of Heroes has been vacant to local affairs since the Giants’ parade in 2011 (the United States’ World Cup champion women’s soccer team in 2015 and 2019 notwithstanding)…that plans for a Robert Saleh statue could be submitted if the Jets take that Week 2 tilt. The fact that fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium for an NFL regular season game for the first time since December 2019 only adds to how much the Patriots’ will mean.

But the Jets can’t go in with that mindset. A win is a win, no matter who it comes against. The Patriots are the Patriots…they’re a football team not a boogeyman. New York shouldn’t buy into the increased hype just because it’s been a while since they’ve enjoyed a win over a certain divisional rival.

Saleh walked through MetLife Stadium for the first time in June. Unlike, say, Rex Ryan, the newly minted Jets boss wasn’t looking to create bulletin board material for the New England locker room. Instead, his focus lingered only what a win would mean for the New York area. He hoped to create a similar atmosphere seen during late spring’s postseason endeavors at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, where he witnessed the respective playoff runs of the New York Knicks and New York Islanders.

“I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium filled where that thing becomes live again like it’s been in the past,” Saleh said in a report from team writer Eric Allen. “New York fans are extremely passionate. They love their home teams, they’re rabid to a sense and it’s awesome. It comes from just absolute love for their teams. But like everything else in the world, you got to earn it.”

“We’re excited about all the work we’re putting in. We’re excited to get the opportunity to earn the same response at MetLife stadium and let the fans light that place up.”

How important is it for the Jets to end their losing streak against New England? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

Dylan Price’s Final Quarterback Rankings For The NFL Draft

New York Jets, Trevor Lawrence
  1. Trevor Lawerence
    Pro Comparison: Andrew Luck
    Let’s be real, there was a minimal amount of tape needed for me to feel comfortable in slotting Lawerence in here. He’s a near-perfect prospect. Great mental processing of the game, a superb arm, perfect size, and sneaky good athleticism. Lawerence matches all of this up by being a mature and grounded athlete as well. He’s dedicated to the game, and I don’t buy the debate he’s not devoted to this. I think Lawerence is going to embrace the media and embrace the almost “villain” role he had in college. I think back to the LSU game when fans were taunting him, and he just smiled. His confidence is off the charts, for better or for worse. Lawerence has bust potential, and landing in Jacksonville with a situation I don’t personally love isn’t ideal. I think he and Luck are similar in their rise, their mental game, and even their landing spot. The Jags need to surround Lawerence with talent and protection. If they can, then he will blossom into all he can be, and what Luck could have been had he played past 29. If he doesn’t have protection and ends up in a similar situation to Luck, then maybe those whispers about his questionable love for the game grow a little louder.2. Zach Wilson
    Pro Comparison: Baker Mayfield
    I truly don’t believe the gap between Lawerence and Wilson is as big as you think. I think where Wilson is hungry and has fought to get to this point, there is a risk of complacency with Trevor. That edge and that hunger is the first big allure with Wilson. He has a true fire for the game of football, and he’s willing to do it all to get his team down the field. From hurdling defenders to launching bombs, Wilson is not afraid to take risks. He has arguably the best touch on the ball in the draft, and his off-platform throws are on a Patrick Mahomes level. Size is a concern for some, not for me. The biggest fear for me in regards to Wilson is similar to Joe Burrow last year. The jump in performance can be attributed, in my opinion, to true growth from working with John Beck. I have concerns about how he will handle the NFL game without an elite offensive line, but presumably, the Jets will try to set him up best as possible. I went with Baker Mayfield on the comparison. He’s got raw talent, an edge, similar stature, and he’s a legitimate leader. I would even argue Wilson has the potential to surpass Baker and become a superstar in this league.

    3. Trey Lance
    Pro Comparison: Cam Newton
    I have become more and more enamored with Lance as this process has went on. I spoke to his quarterback coach a few weeks ago, and he spoke incredibly highly of Lance, but none of it was on the field. Lance has blown everyone I’ve talked to away in his pre-draft interviews. They’ve been just as intrigued with the person he is as they are with the player he is. He’s incredibly mature and an excellent leader. He played that lone game of the season, yes to get film, but also to ensure his teammates received their scholarship money. He’s someone who has the mental processing and leadership to be an elite-level quarterback. On the field, he’s an underrated runner, he has a very good deep ball, and he’s got the build to be a more durable player than Fields and maybe even Wilson. My concerns with Lance stem more from a lack of reps. What I’ve seen is good, but he hasn’t displayed enough as a thrower to lock him in as a top-level talent. He has the intuition and the maturity to succeed, he has the athleticism, and if he can progress as a thrower, he will be the total package. This is a comp I’ve not seen as prominently for Lance as expected. Newton is a runner who has a good arm but not a great one. The potential with Lance’s arm is greater, but there is a lot of Newton in the way Lance plays. My last thing about Lance is that I hope he lands in San Francisco. The chance to sit behind Garoppolo will give him a year to work for hands-on with Mike McDaniel and hopefully be ready to take the reins the following year.

    4. Justin Fields
    Pro Comparison: Deshaun Watson (Ceiling)/ Robert Griffin III (Floor)
    It’s ironic how the guy who some viewed with the safest ceiling is now the guy I’d grade out with the lowest floor. I want to preface this by saying there is a route where we look back on this, and Fields ends up as the best or second-best from this class. People forget, but a few years ago, Deshaun Watson was slept on due to coming out of Clemson and factors related to that. The difference in my opinion with Fields is that although he has all the physical tools in the world, his processing of the game needs to develop. Lance, Wilson, and Lawerence all have demonstrated the ability to adapt to more advanced defenses and higher-level competition overall, but with Fields, when his reads are not there, he struggles to adapt. Now, in the right system that can either make his life easy as Ohio State did or teach him how to handle more complex coverages, Fields can grow into a star. His toughness, durability, and as I previously noted athleticism, is superb. His mechanics with his deep ball throws remind me of Kyler Murray and his shortstop-like throws, but the way he lunges his body into longer throws could leave himself vulnerable to injuries. Fields still has a very high ceiling, but his floor is more resembling of Robert Griffin. It’s all or nothing with Fields, it just depends on the fit.

    5. Mac Jones
    Pro Comparison: Chad Pennington: I have never been in the Mac Jones camp but not based on talent. Jones has great touch with the ball, is arguably the most comfortable and traditional pocket passer in the class, and has sneaky athleticism. He also obviously is well-liked, but Jones fails to resonate with me as a legitimate leader. There are issues off the field with his history of driving intoxicated and other actions that are moderately inappropriate. Jones has the potential to be a franchise guy, just like the other four guys, but it’s less about fit for Jones and more about the talent around him. If Jones were to land in a spot like Denver where he had guys like Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant, he would be well equipped for success. Ultimately, Jones is going to need tools around him to elevate him, but most of all, he needs a support system to keep him on the right track. Pennington and Jones are similar passers and have very similar play styles as a whole, which made the comparison very easy to make.

    6. Kellen Mond
    Pro Comparison: Colin Kapernick
    I think Kellen Mond is very underrated. He does a lot of things well. There is nothing that immediately sticks out to you as his breakaway trait, which is the reason he is at 6. However, he has great potential as a backup, and if he can develop properly, there is a lot of potential to build off of. I think Mond has a hose for an arm as well, which is very underrated. Mond and Kapernick have similar builds and similar skill sets. If Mond lands in a spot where he can learn from a veteran and perfect his craft, there is legitimate upside to him as a prospect.

College teammates the New York Jets should consider for their new QB

The New York Jets are likely set to take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick this month. Adding one of his teammates could work wonders.

For the New York Jets, the easy part ends on draft day.

With the trade of Sam Darnold, it’s all but assured that Gang Green and general manager Joe Douglas will choose a quarterback with the second overall pick of April 29’s NFL Draft proceedings. But then comes the dirty work: grooming him and developing him into a reliable franchise man.

That’s something the Jets have had major trouble with. Their quarterback problems have been well-documented, the franchise slot changing hands more often than the roundball at a New York Knicks game. Darnold joins a list of endless false saviors, a list grown through injuries (Chad Pennington), age (Brett Favre), or simply general inconsistency (too many examples to list). It’s great that Douglas has yielded an embarrassment of draft riches, but he knows that it’s imperative that the right choices are made in those slots.

“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first 3 rounds,” Douglas said of the Jets’ draft future, per notes from the team. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”

One way the Jets can smooth out the transition to a new quarterback is to perhaps find some of his teammates, familiar faces in a strange new locale. Though the general consensus appears that the Jets will choose Zach Wilson with their top pick, ESM goes over some of the top throwers and their alma maters to find perfect matches…

If they draft Zach Wilson from BYU

T Brady Christensen

BYU’s offensive fireworks were allowed to commence thanks to stellar protection. Three of their starting blockers, including Christensen, Chandon Herring, and Tristan Hodge, each opted for early entry. Christensen, a consensus 2020 All-American, worked primarily as a left tackle, a spot the Jets did fill in reasonably well with Mekhi Becton, but has been complemented for a strong football IQ that could allow him to make the shift to right. If the Jets don’t address their blocking woes with their extra first-rounder, Christensen could be worth looking into during the Friday session.

TE Matt Bushman

Adding Bushman, whose 2020 was washed away after an injury, would not only put some hit on the current crop of tight ends (namely starter Chris Herndon) but provided a familiar target for Wilson. Their last collaboration came in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve 2019, uniting for 91 yards on six hook-ups. Though lack of his speed and aggressiveness has attracted criticism, Bushman could wind up becoming a serviceable day three find, be it through the draft or free agency afterward.

WR Dax Milne 

Wilson’s favorite 2020 target was Milne by far, a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy (awarded to the nation’s most outstanding walk-on). Milne burst onto the scene with a stellar junior year, respectively ranking seventh and fourth in FBS play with 70 receptions for 1,188 yards. He probably would’ve been better off with an extra year in Provo, but a friendly face could help Wilson learn the offense more quickly, which could prove vital in a shortened preseason (down to three exhibitions after the addition of a 17th regular season game).

If they draft Justin Fields from Ohio State

G Wyatt Davis

Another unanimous All-American (in a season he nearly missed out on, originally declaring for the 2020 draft before the Big Ten opted-in to football antics), Davis should be a target for the Jets at Nos. 23 or 34 whether they draft Fields or not. No matter which thrower the Jets draft at No. 2, he’s going to need protection. A dominant, smart mind like Davis, who brings forth a lot of upside, can help that transition. Davis knows what it’s like to be called upon in unusual situations. His Big Ten debut came in the conference’s 2019 title game and he later partook in the ensuing Rose Bowl win over Washington over his first two collegiate starts.

RB Trey Sermon

In the rare cases that Fields struggled, perhaps the most notable instance coming in December’s conference title game, Sermon had his back. The rusher surged up draft boards during the collegiate postseason, torching Northwestern for a jaw-dropping 331 yards before earning 193 in the Sugar Bowl upset win over Clemson. If the Jets draft Fields, they could look to create some further heat in their running back room, joining fellow young projects like La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.

If they draft Mac Jones from Alabama

C Landon Dickerson

One (of many) thing(s) Sam Darnold was never blessed with in New York was a truly reliable center, often working veteran castaways from elsewhere (I.e. Spencer Long/Jonotthan Harrison). Should the Jets go with the surging Jones (ranked third to San Francisco in Mel Kiper’s latest mock), Dickerson can help him avoid such a conundrum while putting some heat on incumbent Connor McGovern. He hauls a sizable trophy case to his professional destination, including the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football.

G Deonte Brown

While the Crimson Tide’s skill players may be gone by the time the Jets are on the clock, they have valuable blocking assets that Jones or another can work with. Known for his power and strong run blocking, Brown might have to wait until day three due to length issues and mobility. But he has been know to open holes for the Crimson Tide’s run game and earned rave reviews for his in-line blocking, which would make him invaluable as a goal-line escort.

If they draft Trey Lance from North Dakota State

OL Dillon Radunz

Don’t let the small-school nominee Radunz get lost in a tackle noticeably sized in talent. Radunz got an opportunity to impress amongst elite talent at Mobile’s Senior Bowl. Some scouts have questioned his work ethic, though having a steady leader like Lance to potentially help him out could prove to be grounding. His strength and initial burst have earned positive reviews, and his raw power and talent could propel him to day two status.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags