- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With tight end Rob Gronkowski out of the game, the Patriots may rely more heavily on cagy wide receiver Wes Welker. Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster, who will be matched up on Welker Thursday night when the Jets host the Patriots, said the key to guarding him is watching his hips.
“He’s a big troublemaker,” Lankster said. “You have to watch him the whole play because Welker runs a lot of pivot routes. And then Wes Welker and Tom Brady's connection is so good, wherever Wes goes, Tom Brady can throw it straight to him.”
The job of covering Welker fell to Isaiah Trufant last time these teams met, a 29-26 Jets overtime loss in New England. Welker had six catches for 66 yards. Trufant went on season-ending reserve after sustaining a knee injury, so the job falls to Lankster.
“Whatever skills the Patriots have, we’re going to match them,” Lankster said.
Lankster has the confidence of Antonio Cromartie and other Jets defensive backs, who will have to handle a diverse and interchangeable staff of receivers.
“They have (TE Aaron Hernandez), (he’s) great and I think he rested last game,” Landry said. “He’s definitely going to be fired up to play us and he can fill in the shoes of Gronkowski. So we still need to play a ball game as if he was playing.”
And Cromartie said the key is to have a game plan to effectively contain the receivers they do use. Something the Jets have done before.
“It’s a challenge when you look at it on film,” Cromartie said. “But I think what we do a good job of is trying to get our hands on the slot receivers and trying to match up well against them. I think the biggest thing is when we have bigger personnel on the field and they have (smaller) people on the field, that gives us the biggest problems. I think the biggest thing for us is to make sure we match up well and when they go into the hurry-up offense, to make sure we get a call in, line up well, make sure we don’t get a quick count, and when the offense puts in different guys, just communicate on the back end as quickly as possible.”