Cornerback Aqib Talib won’t play Sunday against the Jets, ruled out by the Patriots Saturday after missing two practices with a hip injury.
Through six games, Talib has been arguably the best defensive player for the Patriots. He’s tied for the league lead with four interceptions, and helped shut out Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (no catches) in last Sunday’s win against New Orleans. It was in that game, though, when Talib was injured; he suffered a similar hip injury late last season, after the Patriots acquired him in a trade with the Buccaneers.
Sunday’s injury kept Talib out of practices Wednesday and Thursday. He was back on the field in a limited capacity during Friday’s practice, but he wasn’t moving well, and he was listed as doubtful in the injury report later that afternoon.
Without Talib, the Patriots will be without their top defensive lineman, linebacker, and defensive back. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (Sept. 29) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (last Sunday) recently suffered season-ending injuries.
On Friday, the Patriots declared that receiver Danny Amendola (concussion), defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee), and running back Leon Washington (ankle) would miss the game vs. the Jets. In addition to Talib, safety Tavon Wilson was also downgraded to out, leaving the Patriots with just two more to reach the required seven for the inactive list.
At first glance, the Jets’ most visible numbers — 3-3 record, scoring 17.3 points per game, allowing 22.5 — aren’t that impressive. Look deeper, though, and one area jumps out: defense, especially vs. the run.
The Jets are giving up just 75.7 rushing yards per game, which is second in the league behind Denver. They’re holding opponents to only 3.0 yards per carry, tops in the NFL. The last player to rush for at least 100 yards against New York was Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, who gained 122 on Dec. 17, 2012.
“Hopefully we can find some things that they’re not doing so well and we can exploit them,” said Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, who has 215 rushing yards on the season. “They are a real good first-down defense, they usually put a lot of people into second down and long yardage, so it’s one of the things that we have to make sure doesn’t happen to us too often.”
That’s another defensive category in which the Jets are having success. They’re allowing a league-best 3.1 yards per first-down play.
The Patriots had 54 rushing yards on 24 carries Sept. 12 but beat the Jets, 13-10.
“I think we’ve got an outstanding group in the front seven. They’re young, and they’re kind of maturing together,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “It starts with Muhammad Wilkerson and then the nose tackles, [Damon Harrison] and Kenrick Ellis have done a good job for us, and Sheldon Richardson, so all the big guys up front have done a decent job in the run. Then I think we’ve got as good a middle linebacker as there is in the league in David Harris.”
The Bills are the only team to rush for at least 100 yards against the Jets this season, getting 120 in Week 3.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com.