One of the biggest positives I took from the Patriots' victory over the New York Jets on Sunday was the improved play of the Patriots defensive backs, particularly cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty as well as safety James Ihedigbo.
Making his first career start, I was particularly intrigued by the play of the former Jet James Ihedigbo. Ihedigbo made six total tackles, showed an ability to come up against the run, blitz the quarterback, and make big hits in the secondary. After the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Ihedigbo's performance:
"James did a great job for us today in his overall communication, and of course he was pretty familiar with the team we were playing. He's a smart guy that really works hard, communicates well, and practiced well this week. I thought he did a good job when he was in there, delivered a couple big hits, and played well."
Of course, Ihedigbo's performance wasn't perfect - he and Kyle Arrington couldn't stop a fourth quarter Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holes touchdown - but he definitely made a positive impact on the game. It will be interesting to see if Ihedigbo sees an increase in snaps moving forward.
Yesterday, I was also impressed by the improved play of starting cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty. Off the top of my head, I can remember two times that Bodden was targeted - both incompletes. I can't even remember McCourty being targeted or completed on. Of course, I don't have the statistics yet, and I'm sure I'm missing a few plays, but there's no question that both of these guys really showed what they can bring to the table yesterday.
Heading into the year, most fans expected the Patriots to have one of the better cornerback tandems in the league with Bodden and McCourty, but we hadn't really seen them perform up to par yet. Yesterday, although Kyle Arrington got the start (Bodden was worked in more as the game progressed), I thought these two players came to play despite the lack of a consistent pass rush to help bail them out.
Overall, yesterday was a marked improvement for the play of the Patriots defensive backs. And although you can make the "Mark Sanchez" argument for why the team allowed less than 200 yards passing, the Jets have a pretty darn good crop of receivers to throw to and the Patriots came to play.
Who knows, if the Patriots defensive backs continue to play like they did yesterday, maybe the team will start getting to the quarterback a little bit more consistently.