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Patriots prep for unpredictable Jets D

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it comes to defense, few teams show more variety in alignments and personnel than the Jets.

Last season, the Patriots offense was pressured when the Jets stacked the line of scrimmage in their Week 2 matchup, but when the teams met in the playoffs, the Jets loaded the field with defensive backs and opted for a maximum coverage strategy.

"There's definitely a lot of options," Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said of the Jets' defense on Thursday. "That's why you got to be prepared for every single option. You never know what they're going to show."

Jets head coach Rex Ryan has shown he isn't afraid to mix and match defensive looks in an effort to slow quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots' offensive attack, and has had some success in doing so over his first two seasons in New York.

"I expect to see anything. Man, zone. Have to be prepared for all situations," Gronkowski said. "They can keep on rotating [personnel] so you have to be ready and prepared for everyone on their roster."

This week, the Jets are likely wondering whether Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, will be ready to play on Sunday. Hernandez is a coverage problem for many teams, with some opting for a defensive back in coverage on Hernandez, while others favor a linebacker.

"Great player. Great teammate," Gronkowski said of Hernandez. "I definitely miss him a lot."

Without Hernandez, the Patriots had only Gronkowski on their 46-man gameday roster for their past two games. Offensive tackles Matt Light and Thomas Welch filled the role of blocking tight end in both of these games. On Thursday, Gronkowski joked that he'd like to see either lineman get involved in the passing game.

"I'm waiting for them to change their number to an 80's number and be out on the routes," Gronkowski said. "I'm ready for Light or Welch to run a flag [route]. Right over the shoulder: touchdown."