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Jets-Patriots preview

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reacts after a play against

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reacts after a play against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 1, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Credit: Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

COVERING GRONK

Sunday could be one of those games where the tight end has a major impact. For the Jets rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye covering the Patriots Rob Gronkowski will be their biggest tests. Gronkowski is second on the team with 318 receiving yards and he’s played in just four games. He can beat you down the seam and on post patterns deep in opponent’s territory. Several players might cover Gronkowski, whether it’s the safeties, inside linebacker Darron Lee or quite possibly one of the outside linebackers like Jordan Jenkins.

“The matchup. Physical size. Is he too big for a safety? Is he too fast and too strong for a linebacker? It’s just the matchup,” Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said about Gronkowski. “Then you give him a lot of attention and you’re leaving a lot of guy’s one on one. That’s the problem.”

In the Jets victory over the Browns, Adams was beaten for a touchdown by Browns rookie tight end David Njoku. Adams tried to jam Njoku at the line of scrimmage lost his footing and allowed Njoku to get behind him.

Adams gave himself a “below F” grade for his performance against the Browns. His game will have to improve this week against Gronkowski.

In 11 career games against the Jets, Gronk has 54 catches for 655 yards with six touchdowns.

JOSH MCCOWN ISN’T THE OLD MAN ON THE FIELD ANYMORE

In the first five weeks of the season, Jets quarterback Josh McCown was probably the oldest man on the field at 38-years old. Sunday when the Jets face the Patriots that changes when 40-year old Tom Brady comes to MetLife Stadium.

“It will be nice for once and hopefully it will happen again later this year,” McCown said. “Tom has set a standard and a mark for quarterbacks in our league. What he’s been able to is nothing short of remarkable and to a degree, it’s special to go against him because he’s widely regarded as the best to ever play. In my opinion, probably rightfully so. To get to play against him and to get go against him, it’s part of it that when you’re done with you career, it’s a cool thing to look back on. But my focus will be on doing the best I can to move the football against their defense.”

In his career, McCown is 0-1 as a starter against Brady. In the 2004 season, McCown, while playing for Arizona, completed 13 of 29 passes for 160 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 23-12 loss.

Brady is 23-7 lifetime against the Jets.

REPLACING DAVID HARRIS

Middle linebacker David Harris was a beloved New York Jets player. He played 10 seasons for the Jets before he was released as part of a roster purge of veteran players this summer. Even now coach Todd Bowles said the move ended awkwardly yet respected how Harris played for him. Harris’ replacement is Demario Davis and he admits he learned plenty about leadership on and off the field from him.

“The weight is the same across the league for a middle linebacker,” Davis said. “If a middle linebacker has to get the guys lined up and set all the blitzes, he has to play at a high level. If a linebacker doesn’t perform at a high level, you can’t really expect the defense to do it. I think it’s just across the league no matter who it is.”

And while Davis is playing well, second in the league with 46 tackles, Harris is a ghost with his new team. Harris was signed by the Patriots after being cut by the Jets and while he doesn’t start, in five games he has one healthy scratch and was inactive for another game.

It’s uncertain if Harris will play on Sunday against the Jets but we do know Davis will.

“Demario has done a great job,” Bowles said. “David has big shoes to fill, but Demario fills his own shoes. He doesn’t have to fill David’s shoes, he just has to be himself, and he’s done a good job at that. A lot of that is because he spent some years around David, so you can credit (Harris) for helping Demario as well.”

12

When it comes to scoring points the Patriots offense makes it happen inside the 20. The Patriots’ 12 touchdowns inside the 20 is tied for the second most with Dallas in the NFL. Green Bay leads the NFL with 15 red zone touchdowns. As a group, the Patriots rank 13th overall by scoring 54.5 percent of the time in the red zone.

40

Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro is one of three kickers to successful make eight field goals of 40 or more yards this season. Catanzaro has made six of eight field goals from between 40 and 49 yards.

MO WILKERSON’S DISAPPEARING GAME

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has zero sacks and zero quarterback hits this season. It’s a surprising turn for the highest paid player on the team. Coach Todd Bowles said Wilkerson gets doubled on most plays as one of the reasons for inactivity along the pass rush. Wilkerson’s health is also something to consider. He’s playing with a Grade 1 strain of his AC joint and he was limited on the practice report due to a toe injury leading up to the Patriots game. With Tom Brady having been sacked 16 times this season, could this be the day Wilkerson breaks free for a sack, or a quarterback hit?

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