New England Patriots vs. New York Jets: Four Players To Watch

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Sep 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Deontae Skinner (55) against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Vikings 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1. Deontae Skinner

Jerod Mayo is out, so the rookie Skinner will be thrust into the spotlight on primetime television. I think the Patriots should run more of a 3-4 defense going forward, with Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower as the two true off-line ‘backers, but that doesn’t mean Skinner won’t see any time.

There is absolutely no way Skinner (or anybody else for that matter) can replace Mayo in the middle of New England’s defense. He doesn’t have the physical talent, and more importantly, he doesn’t have the experience, or the leadership skills of big number 51. But injuries are a big part of the NFL, and if you want to be successful, you have to deal with it.

For tomorrow’s game, the Jets are going to try to exploit the middle of the depleted Pats front seven, not only to attack a weak area, but to take some pressure off of their quarterback’s shoulders. Skinner has to step up, shed blocks, and make tackles in this one, as that will be key to the Pats getting a win.