The New England Patriots entered their Week 3 matchup against the New York Jets severely shorthanded in their secondary. With Marcus and Jack Jones on injured reserve and Jonathan Jones ruled out for the second straight week with an ankle injury, Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade were again thrusted into larger roles.
Both Bryant and Wade played season highs in terms of defensive snaps against New York. Bryant in particular was a large part of New England’s defensive plans, playing 98 percent of the snaps and largely operating as the No. 2 cornerback across from Christian Gonzalez.
“I thought our secondary really competed well,” Bill Belichick said Monday morning. “Shaun, Myles, they had several good plays. Myles had a couple really good reads, and took away a couple routes that [Zach] Wilson didn’t end up throwing that if he had thrown them, they might’ve been picked off.”
One of Bryant’s reads came early in the second quarter on a third-and-long. The Jets tried to set up a downfield screen to star wide receiver Garrett Wilson, but Bryant (slot) sniffed it out immediately and forced a throwaway.
According to Pro Football Focus, both Bryant and Wade were targeted just twice in coverage on the day — each allowing just one reception for 12 yards. While the 5-foot-9 Bryant has drew criticism in the past, the work he and Wade have put in behind the scenes is appearing to pay off.
“One thing about Myles is he’s never satisfied,” cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino said earlier this month. “Myles is always getting better. He’s always out there, ten minutes before practice, working on his footwork. He’s always staying late, up until Friday, every day, with Shaun Wade, working on extra stuff.
“The guy is just a workhorse. All he does is work. He just puts in the time and he cares about this game so much. I respect that so much about his effort that he puts into this game, and his preparation, and his focus. He’s always dialed in and I always appreciate that about Myles.”
Beyond Bryant and Wade in the secondary, New England also received some key unheralded contributions up front. After not playing in either of the first two games, fourth-year linebacker Anfernee Jennings was active in mixed in for 19 snaps to help slow down the Jets rushing attack.
Jennings wasted little time making an impact, as he gashed through the Jets offensive line on the second play from scrimmage to record a six-yard tackle for loss. From there, Jennings played a key role along the edge of New England’s base 3-4 defense to limit New York to just 38 yards on 22 carries.
He also joined in on the pass rush party by recording three quarterback pressures.
“I thought Anfernee gave us a lot of good plays on the edge of the defense,” Belichick said. “We played more base defense in this game then we have in the first two, so that put him on the field more in those situations. Well, he was in there in some other situations as well.
“A big emphasis for us was handling the outside runs better than we did against Miami, and I thought Anfernee did a really, really good job of that. He plays with good awareness and he’s a strong, physical player.”