By Tyson Rauch
The phrase “walking wounded” is often used in the National Football League but never has it applied more than with the New England Patriots. The Patriots will be heading into Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets missing several key playmakers on offense. The question now is whether or not Gang Green will be able to take advantage of some of these favorable match-ups.
Patriots Rushing Attack
The New England Patriots offense suffered a significant blow when running back Shane Vereen was placed on temporary injured reserve with a wrist injury. Vereen had an excellent game last week against the Buffalo Bills (101 rushing yards) as he replaced Stevan Ridley who was benched due to fumbling. Ridley will get a chance to redeem himself this week against the Jets and will be supported by running back LeGarrette Blount. Both Ridley (1,263 rushing yards with 12 tds in 2012) and Blount (1,954 career rushing yards) bring a significant amount of talent to the New England rushing attack. The one area where Vereen will be missed is in the passing game, as both Stevan and LeGarrette are not known to be legitimate receiving threats out of the backfield. The Patriots could look to former Jet Leon Washington to fill that role if he is healthy enough to suit up Thursday night (thigh injury).
New England Passing Offense
The Patriots have listed wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski as doubtful for Thursday night’s game. Amendola is coming off of an excellent performance against the Buffalo Bills where he tallied 10 receptions for 104 yards. Julian Edelman will move up to the No. 1 receiver position while rookies Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins will see increased reps.
Gronkowski’s injury significantly impacts the New England passing game as tight end Zach Sudfeld could also miss the game with a hamstring injury (listed as questionable). The Patriots will be down to their third string end Michael Hoomanawanui who is primarily known for his blocking.
Jets Defensive Strategy
With the lack of proven playmakers in the passing game the New York Jets are going to go all out to slow down the Patriot rushing attack. The goal of the defense will be to make the New England offense one-dimensional and to make Tom Brady force passes to unproven wide receivers. Stopping the run will be no easy task for Gang Green, as the New England Patriots possess one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
As for the pass defense, look for Rex Ryan to get very aggressive in terms of going after Tom Brady. Ryan should be confident that defensive back Antonio Cromartie and company can slow down Julian Edelman and will unleash players like Antwan Barnes and Calvin Pace in the pass rush.
New York Jets Injuries
Mark Sanchez, Quinton Coples, and Jeremy Kerley have all been ruled out for Thursday night’s game. The Jets were without both Sanchez and Coples last week, but the injury to Kerley will have a serious impact on the Jets passing attack and return game. Jeremy Kerley is a dynamic playmaker in the slot position who can be used in a variety of formations. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will look for Santonio Holmes to pick up some of the slack with players like Clyde Gates, Ben Obomanu and possibly Ryan Spadola seeing increased action.
As for the return game, Gang Green will more than likely replace Kerley with Kyle Wilson.
DE Quinton Coples (ankle), WR Jeremy Kerley (concussion), QB Mark Sanchez (shoulder)
Limited in Practice
TE Jeff Cumberland (chin), DT Kenrick Ellis (Back), WR Santonio Holmes (foot), C Nick Mangold (elbow), DT Sheldon Richardson (shoulder), TE Kellen Winslow II (knee)
Full Participation in Practice
LB Nick Bellore (oblique), T Willie Colon (knee), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), WR Clyde Gates (knee), DT Damon Harrison (knee), WR Stephen Hill (knee), T Ben Ijalana (knee), RB Chris Ivory (thumb), LB Garrett McIntyre (ribs), CB Dee Milliner (hip), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), QB Geno Smith (ankle)
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.