Even though the New England Patriots played a competitive game against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, they do not have a win to show fo it. Losing 35-29 in overtime, the Patriots dropped to 2-4 on the season and are now in dire need of some momentum again.
Luckily, the perfect opportunity awaits in Week 7: the New York Jets, owners of a 1-4 record, are visiting Gillette Stadium for a divisional showdown. The game will be a rematch of a Week 2 contest that saw the Patriots win 25-6 despite not playing their best football on the offensive side of the ball.
Nonetheless, they are favored by a touchdown this week. If they want to live up to those expectations and earn their third victory of the season, the following five players in particular are needed to perform at a high level.
CB Jalen Mills
Jalen Mills started the year as the Patriots’ CB2, and he generally performed well in this role. Against New York, for example, he surrendered only two receptions on five targets for a combined seven yards.
However, the free agency acquisition has had some issues as of late. Not only did he miss the Week 5 game in Houston due to a hamstring injury, he also struggled in his return against the Cowboys last Sunday: when targeting him, quarterback Dak Prescott went 5-for-7 for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns — including the eventual game-winner in overtime.
Obviously, Jets QB Zach Wilson is no Dak Prescott. That said, Mills will need to show some bounce-back ability in order to stand his ground against a talented wide receiver group led by Corey Davis and Elijah Moore (who he both was matched up with at times in Week 2). If he cannot do that, New York’s passing offense might be able to find more success than it had against the Patriots earlier this year.
OT Isaiah Wynn
Following a stint on the NFL’s Coronavirus reserve list, Isaiah Wynn returned to the Patriots just in time for the game against Dallas. He did not start the contest at his normal left tackle spot, though, and was instead only brought onto the field for a handful of snaps in the second quarter.
Wynn was sent back to the bench after giving up a third down sack, however, and did not return for the remainder of the game. The circumstances leading up to the contest did not work in his favor — he was unable to practice even once all week — which means that the game against the Jets should be more representative of his current status, and whether or not he can finally rebound from a shaky early season outing.
G Ted Karras
With Trent Brown remaining on injured reserve and a glaring hole at the right tackle position, it appears the Patriots will move second-year guard Michael Onwenu into the spot this week. In turn, his original position between left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews will be left vacant.
The clear frontrunner to fill it is Ted Karras, who started the last two games as Shaq Mason’s replacement at right guard. Karras has proven himself a solid stand-in who has to be counted among the top-five blockers available for the team at the moment. However, he also has never started a game at the left guard position in his six-year career.
Karras should be up to the challenge — he played 26 snaps against Tampa Bay at the position — but it will be interesting to see how his chemistry especially with Isaiah Wynn will look like after only a handful of practices together.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson
When he entered the league in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Rhamondre Stevenson drew plenty of comparisons to former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Just like Blount he was labeled a “bruiser” who would win more through power than elusiveness.
Last week, however, Stevenson showed that he can be more than a physical downhill attacker: the rookie also caught three passes for a combined 39 yards. While he will not be confused with injured Patriots receiving back James White anytime soon, he could see another uptick in receiving opportunities this week against a Jets defense that has had some issues defending screen passes.
LB Josh Uche
When the Patriots played the Jets in Week 2, Josh Uche was a disruptive presence up front: playing almost half of New England’s defensive snaps, he registered a combined six quarterback disruptions; among them was a pair of sacks in the late fourth quarter. Since that game, however, his playing time has decreased a bit — possibly as a result of the back injury that cost him the Week 3 contest against the New Orleans Saints.
Now, the second-year man could find an opportunity to reestablish himself as a prominent member of the Patriots’ edge linebacker rotation. The team, after all, will likely try to put as much pressure as possible on Zach Wilson to force him into mistakes. Uche could be a big part of those plans.