Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

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Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO The last time the Patriots and Jets met, it really wasn't much of a meeting.

Led by Tom Brady's 310 passing yards, Wes Welker's 15 catches for 192 yards, and, yes, Laurence Maroney's 77 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns, the Pats' offense made somewhat easy work of the vaunted Jets D on their way to a 31-14 win.

Before practice on Thursday, that game was, predictably, a topic of conversation in the New England locker room. And just as predictably, the Pats were quick to write off the possibility of that prior success having any effect on what happens this Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"Sometimes you have one of those days where you're able to just get into a zone and make some plays," Welker said of last season's dominating performance, "and I'm sure they're gonna be coming up with something to take that away this time around."

"This is a different team," said Julian Edelman, who had three catches for 26 yards last time the two team met. "They drafted a new corner, and they're going to have different schemes, probably, so we're just out there preparing our best and doing whatever we can."

Perhaps the bigger story than the new corner the Jets drafted (Kyle Wilson, out of Boise State), is the one who they traded for former All-Pro Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie, who measures at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and is one of the stronger, more physically gifted cornerbacks in the league, is expected to line up against Welker on Sunday.

"He's super fast," said Welker, who admits he's still not back at 100 percent after offseason knee surgery. "I don't think there's anyone faster in the league than that guy. His speed and his range and recovery and everything like that. And his size, he's a big guy. He's a rare combination of size and speed and definitely somebody that you have to stay on top of your routes and not get sloppy."

But if there's one spot where Welker does have a leg up in the match-up, it's with his quickness (even he's not yet fully recovered).

"It's usually bigger guys have more problems with that," he said, "so I'll try to use that to my advantage for sure."

He'll also have a little more help on Sunday than he did last week, thanks to the return of Edelman, who missed the Bengals game, and much of the preseason, because of an injured ankle.

"I'm real anxious to get back out there, he said. "I love playing the game and anytime you don't get to play with your teammates that you've been training so hard with, going through double-days and going through camp with, it's a little disappointing. So I'm chomping at the bit."

When asked if he learned anything from the 31-14 win?

"I don't even remember that, really," Edelman said. "When our offense is clicking, we're pretty tough. That's what I learned. But this is a different team."

The addition of Edelman, combined with the emergence of Brandon Tate, should help Welker offset what is undoubtedly the most hyped match-up of the afternoon.

Randy Moss vs. Revis Island.

With cornerback Darrelle Revis back from his holdout and already slinging trash talk the way of Moss, you can expect the two to go at each other all day. And while the Patriots have complete confidence in their star getting the best of Revis, they'll be ready to pick up the slack if Moss does in fact find himself stranded.

"Obviously, Revis and Randy are great players, and they're going to go at it," said Welker. "It just means he's gonna battle and do what he needs to do, and at the same time every else has to battle and make sure they're doing their job."

The defense also had their way with the Jets last November, intercepting rookie Mark Sanchez four times including a first-quarter pick six by Leigh Bodden and holding New York to barely 200 yards of total offense.

You'd think that that, combined with Sanchez's poor showing on Monday night against Baltimore, might have the Pats feeling overconfident. Okay, actually, you know that wouldn't happen, but either way, the Patriots made sure to express that they aren't taking anything for granted against the Jets offense on Sunday.

"I'm sure Sanchez has a chip on his shoulder, but that's not going to change how we prepare for the game and execute," said Darius Butler. "We're ready for the challenge. I'm sure he's a different player than he was last year."

"They have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field," said Jonathan Wilhite, "and receivers who can go get it, so we have to be ready to go."

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.