Each Wednesday we'll identify one player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, CBs Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler are the choice.
It didn't take long into the season for the NFL to see how weak the Patriots' passing defense would be. In Week Two, Jets QB Mark Sanchez picked on the Pats' corners en route to a 28-14 victory.
The two starting corners that day, Devin McCourty and Darius Butler, each got beat on two separate scoring plays. McCourty lost out on a jump ball with TE Dustin Keller in the endzone to seal the Jets' win. Earlier in the game, McCourty bit on a Jerricho Cotchery head move to the outside, only to watch Cotchery catch a touchdown pass on a quick slant. Butler lost out on two jump balls to WR Braylon Edwards, one for a touchdown and one for a two-point conversion. To make matters worse, Edwards taunted Butler and the second-year corner hasn't started since, only recently getting back on the field.
Since Butler's benching, Kyle Arrington has started but teams are starting to pick on him, most recently Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who beat Arrington for a touchdown on Thanksgiving.
McCourty, though, has improved drastically and is having a stellar rookie season. He is tied for the rookie lead with five interceptions.
Bill Belichick likely will use safeties Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather more often in coverage to avoid one-on-one situations that killed the Patriots in Week Two. In addition to Edwards and Keller, the Jets now have WR Santonio Holmes.
With CB Jonathan Wilhite hurt, Butler should get an opportunity to make up for his Week Two mistakes. The Pats' passing defense has not necessarily improved since the loss to the Jets, but McCourty is better, and Belichick should have a scheme designed to help his corners. That said, the secondary will need its best game to slow down the Jets.