With the New England Patriots’ bye week effectively over — the team returned to work yesterday after four days off — they will turn their attention to the upcoming opponent, the New York Jets. The Jets are obviously a familiar opponent for the Patriots considering that they meet them at least twice a year. This season, however, New York and New England did not yet cross paths; Sunday’s game will be the first between the two long-time rivals.
But despite their last meeting taking place in December 2017, the Patriots and Jets know each other well as New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed out during a conference call on Monday. “It seems to be the same challenge each year when we play them,” McDaniels said when asked about his team’s upcoming game. “we’re going to need a great week of preparation here coming off the bye.”
This process of preparing for the Jets might also involve deviations from the norm — after all, the teams have met several times over the years with the same basic coaching staffs in place on each side. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and McDaniels have worked together since the coordinator’s return to the team in 2012. Meanwhile, the Jets’ defensive staff led by head coach Todd Bowles and coordinator Kacy Rodgers has been in place since 2015.
Consequently, both teams might be looking for ways to break tendencies when going against that familiar a foe. However, according to McDaniels adding new wrinkles to a game plan is not as easy as it sounds. “There’s always a balance there,” the 42-year old said. “There’s certainly a time and a place to try to protect the things that you do best and or change something up to give the defense a different look.”
“But I think you’ve got to be careful with going overboard on that and doing too many things that are unfamiliar to your players,” McDaniels continued. As deep as New England’s playbook is — having plenty of experienced players led by 19-year veteran quarterback Tom Brady allows you to do that — players need to be kept in a certain comfort zone to be able to consistently produce the desired results.
“The most important thing is that they know what to do and they can do it at a high level,” McDaniels pointed out yesterday. “If you try something new or you try to add a wrinkle here and there and protect something that you’re doing, that’s great. You’ve just got to make sure that they know how to do it the right way and feel good about executing it [...] There’s a balance between all those things.”
For McDaniels, mixing things up is not primarily what brings success. “At the end of the day, toughness and execution are the most important things. If we do a good job and play physical and we execute the techniques and fundamentals that we have been working on and that we’re good at better than the opponent does, then you have a chance to have success,” he said. “There’s a lot of plays that come down to that each week.”