By: Steve Balestrieri
This week’s player to watch for the New England Patriots defense is DE Chandler Jones in their Sunday matchup against the Dolphins.
In our weekly “Razor’s Edge” column, we spotlighted TE Rob Gronkowski who returned to action last week against the Jets and worked some of the rust off after a nine month layoff and five surgeries to his arm and back. Much more will be expected going forward.
Jones Stepping It Up in Year Two: Much was expected from Jones in his second season in Foxboro and thus far he has delivered. Jones’ 6.5 sacks and 41 total quarterback pressures leads the Patriots and is on pace for 15 sacks this season which would be the most of any player in the Bill Belichick era.
Jones got off to great start in his rookie campaign notching six sacks in the first eight games before a couple of injuries slowed him down the stretch. During the off-season he worked out with his brother, a professional MMA fighter and added an additional 10-15 lbs of upper body muscle to his frame. He also worked on some of his hand moves which can help free him at the line of scrimmage.
Jones has been impressive in his second season for the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)
Miami Struggling In Protection: The Dolphins have struggled in protecting QB Ryan Tannehill in 2013 allowing 26 sacks in the first six games. It is an area that was highlighted as a potential weakness and has proven to be just that.
Miami’s tackles have been victimized most, allowing pressure off the edge both LT Jonathan Martin and RT Tyson Clabo have struggled mightily. This week Miami has made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens bringing in tackle Bryant McKinnie who started at left tackle during their 2012 Super Bowl run.
But McKinnie at 34 may be close to the end and lost his starting job this season and was inactive the past two weeks. He’s huge at 6’8, 352 and will give the Dolphins the option of both playing him at his normal LT position and sliding Martin back to his natural RT spot or slide him into RT and replace the struggling Clabo.
Carter Back Into The Fold: This week the Patriots re-signed DE Andre Carter, who played very well for the Patriots in 2011 until tearing a quad muscle in Denver. But Carter who had 10 sacks that season isn’t expected to be an every down player this time around.
With a defense as young as New England’s and having lost so much veteran experience in Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly this season, Carter will lend that veteran presence and poise and help mentor the youngsters and spell DEs Rob Ninkovich and Jones to keep them fresher for the end of games.
Carter could also boost the pass rush on obvious passing downs by coming in at the edge which would allow the Patriots to slide Jones inside as an interior pass rusher, something they’ve done this year as well.
Having Jones, Ninkovich and Carter as the team’s pass rushers would be an advantage against Miami’s leaky offensive line and could set themselves up for a big day rushing Tannehill.
Regardless of who is playing opposite him this week, Jones should have the advantage and he’ll be the player the Dolphins will be most interested in keeping away from Tannehill.
Jones however doesn’t play into the one-man effort type talk and in speaking with the Boston media this week spoke of an overall team approach.
“A lot of the sacks came from just good coverage,” Jones said. “Guys freeing me up, guys getting double teamed and I’m getting left with one-on-one blocks. Sometimes the quarterback pulling the ball down and holding it a bit longer, enabling me to get to him. So a lot of it goes to my teammates. I’m excited. I’m excited for the season to keep going.”
Having CB Aqib Talib out last week and questionable to play on Sunday, the easiest way to help the secondary is to create a big pass rush and against the Dolphins and the Patriots will be looking to Jones.
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