6 Players to Watch When Jets Battle AFC East Rival New England

Jets to Watch

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Zach Wilson can be a Jet to watch every week, and no doubt will be spotlighted the rest of the season. And certainly the Jets quarterback can make fans forget about last week’s rough-all-around roadtrip to Big D with a big game at MetLife Stadium.

But it will take more than a quarterback to end the Green & White droughts against New England — 14 consecutive losses overall, seven in a row at MetLife. It will take a team effort like the opening-night win over the Bills.

“Yes, it’s New England, and it’s a division game, and the past is the past,” head coach Robert Saleh said. “But all our focus is on today, trying to be our best version of ourselves so we can find a way to get this one on Sunday.”

If the Jets get this one, their stock will rise again — for starters, they’d be 2-0 in the AFC East for the first time since 2012. Meanwhile the Patriots’ woes would continue. They are 0-2 for the first time since 2001, haven’t been 0-3 since 2000, and have held no lead in their first two games for the first time since 1992.

Here are six players to watch (besides the QB) in the Jets’ Sunday quest to slay their recent draggin’ vs. the Patriots.

RB Breece Hall — Breece wants the ball more than his four carries vs. the Cowboys (plus incompletions on two targets). But he won’t get them if the Jets can’t maximize their third-down performance and minimize their turnovers. If they can improve there, then Hall, one of the speediest RBs in the NFL, could return to the form he showed in his first eight games as a Jet. Along with Dalvin Cook continuing to shake off the rust, the Jets may be able to gash the Pats’ run defense, 23rd in yards/game and 20th in yards/carry (4.40). That in turn could provide Z.Wilson the chance to connect off play action with Garrett Wilson and his wideouts, along with timely tosses to his TEs and backs.

Ts Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton — Brown and Becton can be solid tackles, but both have struggled early on. By one independent website’s count, Brown has yielded four of the Jets’ six sacks. Becton hasn’t surrendered a sack but has been called for five penalties (two false starts accepted, two holds and one ineligible downfield declined). Both will have key matchups against the Patriots’ top pressure men, the red-sleeved Matt Judon over Becton, RE Dietrich Wise and LB Josh Uche over Brown’s left side. Brown told ESPN.com it’s a matter of want-to: “We have to give Zach a chance to sit comfortably in the pocket and make plays.”

DL Quinnen Williams — Mac Jones has been efficient in posting four wins over Zach and the Jets, but he was under the gun in both of last year’s one-score Jets losses. He was sacked 12 times in the home-and-home, the second-most sacks in a season suffered by any Jets opponent. (Drew Bledsoe went down 13 times in 2000.) Eight different defenders shared those dozen sacks, with Williams, Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons getting Jones twice each. That production held the Pats to a combined 29.4% on third-down conversions. A repeat in this ballpark will help remove the sting of the defense’s 50% third-down showing in Big D.

S Jordan Whitehead — Whitehead didn’t get INT No. 4 at the Cowboys, but the veteran safety did score a trifecta not nearly as huge as his three interceptions vs. the Bills yet still impressive: 2.5 tackles at the line of scrimmage among his game-high 9 tackles. Now it could be back into coverage as J-White, Tony Adams and Adrian Amos and corners Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II have to deal with not only WRs DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne but also with two tight ends of their acquaintance, Hunter Henry (career vs. Jets: 5 wins, no losses, 10 catches, 155 yards, 2 TDs) and Mike Gesicki (career with Miami vs. Jets: 8-2, 24-305-1).

PR Xavier Gipson — We’re not going to say watch Gipson duplicate his opening-night walkoff punt-return TD magic to beat the archnemesis Patriots while evening the score after last year’s almost-walkoff game-winning PR TD by Marcus Jones at New England. But we will say that Xavier, quiet at Dallas, is still second in the NFL with his 24.3-yard return average, while the Patriots are 28th in the league in allowing 14.3 yards/return. If the X-Man can shake a few runbacks loose, it will help with the field position battle, which the Jets have lost to the Pats in 12 of their 14 meetings since their last win in the series in 2015.

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