(CBS)- The Patriots were dealt another blow Wednesday when corner Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19. The team won’t practice Wednesday and there are questions about whether Sunday’s tilt against the Denver Broncos will even happen. But, for now, it appears the league is moving ahead with playing this Sunday’s game.
With that in mind, losing Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is obviously, a huge blow to the defense. But, the question becomes, how does the unit change and adapt going into the matchup with Denver? NFL on CBS analyst Trent Green notes that he was interested in seeing whether the Pats would use Gilmore to “mirror” Broncos rookie Jerry Jeudy.
“If you go based on last year, he’s going to lock down one side of the field or he’s going to lock down one guy and we just have to play 10 on 10 the other way. You didn’t have to give him extra help. That is going to affect the defense in terms of how they call it and how they prepare,” said Green. “For Denver, I think the thing that jumps out to me right away would be how Denver wants to use Jerry Jeudy. That was going to be one of the interesting matchups for me, would have been the Gilmore-Jeudy matchup.”
Still, if there’s one thing Belichick prides himself on, it’s his ability to scheme a defensive game plan to take away what an opposing offense does best as Green notes, “he finds one thing or one person or one aspect or one phase and tries to shut that down and then force you to do some things that you don’t want to do.”
For the Broncos, that would appear to be the running game. While Phillip Lindsay has been out since Week 1 with turf toe, Melvin Gordon ranks 9th in the league in rushing yards (285), and he’s picked up 11 first downs on the ground thus far. The Pats have been just a bit below average against the run thus far, ranking 19th in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA.
But, with a young quarterback under center in either Brett Rypien or Drew Lock, it seems likely that the game plan would be to make them beat you rather than allow the run game to get them comfortable in the game.
Rypien had good and bad moments last week against the Jets in his first start. He impressed Green with his ability to shake of mistakes and continue to throw but, still, as a second-time starter, you’d expect Belichick to have the upper hand.