Jets Have A Big Task Ahead

The Jets have a lot to worry about with the Patriots' revamped offense. Despite playing some close games in 2006, New York players understand this is not the same Patriots outfit that they played three times last year.

The last real game the Jets played was a 37-16 loss to New England in a wild-card playoff in January. Yet the tape of that game might not do either team all that much good this week, considering how much has changed since then. Both teams have new players, especially New England, which has four wide receivers that were not on the roster last season.

Add in the fact that both teams were purposely vanilla on both offense and defense during their preseason games, an it's obvious that there could be a lot of surprises when these familiar rivals meet.

That sense of unknown is heightened by the fact that one of the Patriots' new receivers, former Raider Randy Moss, didn't play in any of their preseason games because of a hamstring injury. The other new wideouts, Kelley Washington, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, totaled 14 preseason receptions. Moss was limited in practice Thursday.

"With all their acquisitions," Jets' strong safety Kerry Rhodes said, "they can do whatever they want. ... They can line up in anything they want, five wides, four wides, three receivers and one back, two backs.

"They can do a lot more things," he added. "In the first game, you're going to see something that you're not expecting."

"It's almost like a mind game, a chess match," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said, noting that the Patriots could use an empty backfield "with the weapons (Tom Brady) has at receiver. ... Or they could try to pound it on us (on the ground). Who knows what's going to happen?

"It's one of those games, where you're going to be just as tired mentally as physically after the game."

Fatigue will likely set in afterwards for both sides of the ball. Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, 2-5 in his career as a starter against New England, knows to expect the unexpected in these games.

"We have to handle the different looks that they might give us," he said, "and the different game plans they may bring to us to challenge us with. We have to be able to adjust to those things. Always, especially with opening day, you're going to have some new wrinkles that you may not be prepared for and you have to deal with adjustments on the run. Both teams will be dealing with that."

Notes:

--RB Thomas Jones was limited in practice Thursday because of a strained right calf, but is expected to play this week. Jones indicated Wednesday he expects to play.

--RB Leon Washington will probably get the bulk of the work on kickoff returns because CB-KR Justin Miller (hamstring) still is limited in practice.

--CB Andre Dyson (foot) was limited in practice Thursday, but is expected to play this week. However, Darrelle Revis could start in his place.

--FS Eric Smith (hamstring) was limited in practice Thursday, but is expected to play this week.

--WR Justin McCareins, bothered by nagging injuries the last two seasons, re-emerged as a downfield threat during the preseason with an average of 24.3 yards per catch. But will Chad Pennington have enough time to get him the ball, considering the Jets' issues at left guard?

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