Patriots hurting on offense, but healthy Tom Brady the great equalizer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It's hard to imagine a better time for the Jets to play the Patriots.
New England heads into tomorrow night's game in Foxborough with a receiving corps of unknowns and giant voids at running back and tight end.
Still, there are only a few positions that really matter in New England.
"As long as they have Tom Brady back there and Bill Belichick on the sideline and Big Vince [Wilfork] in the middle of their defense, they are probably pretty stout," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday, indicating he believed New England still was feeling pretty confident. "We are going up there and we are excited to play them."
The Patriots are so banged up from Sunday's game against Buffalo that they limited their practice Tuesday to a walk-through.
Missing from the walk- through was wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was signed during the offseason to replace Wes Welker. Amendola caught 10 passes for 104 yards in the Patriots' opener but suffered a groin injury, and if he can play tomorrow night, he will be limited.
Also missing was running back Shane Vereen, who had 159 yards from scrimmage against the Bills but reportedly underwent surgery Monday to fix a fractured wrist. Vereen was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, meaning he will miss at least the next eight games. Former Jets running back Leon Washington (thigh) was listed as limited, but he is expected to fill Vereen's third-down role against the Jets.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is coming back from surgeries on his forearm and back, has not been ruled out officially, but there have been several reports coming out of Boston that it is unlikely he will play.
Yet with Brady at quarterback, the Patriots usually come out on top. In Ryan's tenure, the Jets are 3-6 against Brady. And in all three of their wins, the secret has been putting relentless pressure on the future Hall of Famer.
"Obviously, you have to try to disrupt him, whether it's the timing of his routes, whether it's you get some hits or fly-bys on him," Ryan said. "He's a great quarterback, you have to challenge him. You have to challenge him mentally also."
Linebacker Antwan Barnes said it really doesn't matter that Brady is throwing to relatively inexperienced targets; his mere presence seems to inspire those around him.
"They see his experience. He was a guy no one talked about, a sixth-rounder, and ended up winning three Super Bowls," Barnes said. "They look at him as an inspiration. He went though their stages of being a no-name guy to 'that guy.' They know they can put it on his shoulders."
The Jets' front seven was impressive in Week 1 against Tampa. They managed to record three sacks of Josh Freeman, but the Patriots' fast-moving offense is a different animal than Greg Schiano's Bucs. The Eagles' offense may be the new kid on the block when it comes to up-tempo offenses, but Ryan believes New England's is the fastest.
"If anyone is faster than New England, I haven't seen it. And I've been around football a long time," he said. "They definitely challenge you with their tempo. He runs several different tempos. He goes super-fast, just fast. Or he can slow it down. They do a lot of things that challenge a defense."
With Greg Logan