By: Steve Balestrieri
This week’s defensive player to watch in the Patriots and Falcons Sunday Night Football matchup is Chandler Jones, defensive end for the Pats.
In our Razor’s Edge piece from Thursday, we looked to Julian Edelman for the offensive side of the ball, but for the Patriots to win on Sunday they’ll need a big effort from the defense and Jones.
Atlanta although only 1-2 right now is easily the most formidable team offensively the Patriots have faced this season. They have a dangerous array of weapons on offense and a quarterback, Matt Ryan who can put it all together.
The Patriots defense has improved from last season and has been downright stingy when it comes to allowing points in 2013, giving up an average of only 11.3 points per game. But if they want another “W” in the standings this week, they’re going to need to stop Ryan and disrupting his timing with his receivers, including Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
And that starts with Jones, the Patriots top draft choice from the 2012 NFL Draft. He was off to roaring start in his rookie campaign until injuries slowed him down the stretch. This off-season, Jones vowed to get bigger and stronger and added 10-15 lbs of muscle to his frame without sacrificing his quickness off the edge.
Jones has had a good start to the 2013 and has developed an array of moves to bring pressure to the quarterback and this week will be facing tackle Lamar Holmes if LT Sam Baker is unable to go because of injury.
Holmes is the normal right tackle and has slid over to left in Baker’s absence. And it hasn’t been an easy go for the 2nd year offensive lineman. According to Pro Football Focus, Holmes rates 61st out of 62 tackles in pass protection, allowing an eyebrow raising 15 hurries, four hits and one sack in the first three games.
Jones, according to PFF is the 10th rated DE in the league thus far with 10 hurries, two hits and 4 combined sacks. This is a matchup that the Jones should not only win but needs to win if the Patriots are going to beat the favored Falcons on Sunday night.
The Patriots have moved Jones around thus far this season and in obvious passing situations have slid him inside as an interior pass rusher. To keep from putting the onus completely on him, we may even see rookie Michael Buchanan line up at Jones’ normal DE spot in passing situations.
But big players come up big in big situations and Sunday night, the Patriots are facing one of these. The Falcons are circled as one of the “marquee” games in which to judge how good this Patriots team really is.
Bill Belichick always says that defensive football is a combined effort, with the pass rush, and secondary play going hand in hand. The secondary led by Aqib Talib will need a big performance as well but the pass rush will ultimately decide if they can pull off a win in Atlanta.
And Jones is going to have to be a big part of the defensive effort in slowing down the Falcons offense.