The New England Patriots got into the win column for the first time this season on Sunday thanks to a 25-6 rout over the New York Jets. Bill Belichick's defense was able to pick off rookie quarterback Zach Wilson four times in the contest and capitalize by scoring 16 points off those turnovers. Naturally, there were some strong performances for New England en-route to the first win of 2021, but there were also some things that can be improved upon as they continue forward for the rest of the season.
Below, we'll highlight which Patriots players have their stock moving in the right direction coming out of Sunday's win and who'll be looking for a bounce-back performance when they take on the New Orleans Saints in Foxborough during Week 3.
Stock up: Patriots backfield
Damien Harris was able to rebound quite nicely after that game-losing fumble in the opener against the Dolphins. The third-year back led the game with 62 yards rushing and did his best Marshawn Lynch impression during a 26-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Harris took the ball up the gut and was able to shed several tackles as he barreled his way into the end zone. Most importantly, he didn't put the ball on the ground.
As for James White, he was the other co-star in New England's backfield. While Harris led the team in rushing, it was White who led the team in receiving yards, catching all six of his targets from Mac Jones for 45 yards. He also rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Stock down: Yasir Durant
A calf injury sidelined starting right tackle Trent Brown for Sunday's contest and his absence was apparent throughout the day. Yasir Durant started in place of Brown and struggled mightily. According to PFF's metrics, Durant was responsible for two of Mac Jones' three sacks on the day and was eventually benched for Justin Herron. Neither tackle has been able to fill the shoes of Brown during their time at right tackle, so getting the 6-foot-8, 359 pounder is becoming paramount.
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Stock up: J.C. Jackson
It was quite the day at the office for cornerback J.C. Jackson, who was able to pick off Zach Wilson twice during Sunday's win. The interceptions came on back-to-back drives in the first quarter and on two consecutive throws by Wilson. He also only allowed his receivers to catch 60% of the targets thrown their way for 41 yards and manage just five total yards after the catch.
Stock down: Run defense
The Patriots made it a point of emphasis to try and improve their run defense this offseason after it had been an Achilles heel for the team for the past few seasons. Despite some free agent addition, the unit still seems to be struggling. On Sunday, New York rushed for 152 yards on the ground on 4.9 yards per carry. Those rushing yards came primarily from the likes of rookie Michael Carter, Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman. While those backs are solid, no one is mistaking them for elite players at their position, which makes things quite concerning as the Patriots will see Saints star running back Alvin Kamara next week.
Stock up: Matthew Judon
Judon continues to be a chess piece for Bill Belichick's defense. Against the Jets, Judon had seven total pressures on Zach Wilson, including five hurries and a sack. His presence immediately jumps out when he's on the field and was consistently disrupting Wilson when he dropped back to pass, which likely contributed to his four turnovers.
Stock down: Wide receiver unit
It was a quiet day for Patriots receivers, particularly offseason additions Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. They totaled just 31 yards on six combined targets in the win as New England has yet to really push the ball down the field. Through two games, the Patriots have yet to throw the ball into the end zone. Of course, that could be blamed on Mac Jones not taking his chances deep, but these pass-catchers will need to bring their level of play up if the Patriots want to have a more well-rounded offensive attack.
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