FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - It might sound like so much hot air coming from a team that got drilled, 45-3, on its last visit to Gillette Stadium, but safety James Ihedigbo says he and the rest of the Jets are planning to take the lumber to the Patriots in Sunday's divisional playoff game.
"We're going in there with the mind-set to physically intimidate this team,'' Ihedigbo said after Friday's final practice. "We're going to go in there and be the more physical, more dominant team.''
Ihedigbo is known for blasting opponents with big special-teams hits, and in his role as a backup safety, he has the ability to blitz, play the run and cover. At 6-1, 214 pounds, he's the perfect combination of strength and speed to cover Patriots rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Although he is listed as questionable with knee and ankle injuries and was limited in practice, Ihedigbo said he got a few reps, spent hours on film study and fully expects to play. "The fact I have a big body and I play very physical at the line of scrimmage, I'd be ideal to cover them,'' he said of the Patriots' tight ends. "Our game plan is superb. We're very confident.''
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady controls the ball with a highly efficient short passing attack, and although he spreads the ball around, he leans on slot receiver Wes Welker and the tight ends. But the Jets can disrupt the timing by hitting receivers coming off the line of scrimmage.
"If they're catching the little dinks and dunks, we're looking to punish them after they catch the ball,'' Ihedigbo said. "My goal is to set a physical presence and let the Patriots know what type of game it's going to be.''
Earlier this week, Jets coach Rex Ryan said this game is personal for him, but if anyone truly has reason to have a personal grudge against the Patriots, it's Ihedigbo. He was born in Northampton, Mass., grew up rooting for the Patriots and attending some games, and played at UMass with a teammate whose father is a Patriots assistant coach. But the Patriots snubbed him as a free agent coming out of college four years ago.
"When your own football team doesn't even look at you twice, I did take it personal,'' Ihedigbo said. "I looked at it as me being that close to their area and them having scouts visit all the time with my coaches. They felt I wasn't good enough. I'm going to prove to them every time I play them how good I am. But I'm very happy where I'm at now, and we're going to look to dominate them on Sunday.''