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Michael Lombardi on D&C: Aaron Hernandez ‘the X factor’

10.07.11 at 11:21 am ET

Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network checked in for his weekly NFL analysis with Dennis & Callahan Friday morning. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots host the Jets Sunday, a matchup that features a struggling Jets offense against a disappointing Patriots defense. Lombardi was asked if Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will get a chance to find his rhythm against a New England defense that ranks in the bottom of the league statistically.

“I think you’re going to see a boot, naked type of game from the Jets offense,” Lombardi said. “I think they’re going to roll him out, they’re going to move him, make him have some easy throws, get him off to a good start, get his confidence back, and then try to set up their running game.

“I think the Jets like to control the football in the game, and I think they’re going to want to be able to be in a lot of third-and-shorts so they can convert and keep the Patriots offense off the field and try to get the confidence in their offense back up. And then when they get down to the red zone, throw it up for Plaxico Burress to make a play, or try to get Santonio Holmes on a big play down the field.

“But I don’t think they’re going to come in and try to chuck it 40 times. I think they’re going to be really careful at what they do. But I think they’re going to be very much about bootlegs and nakeds and creating a situation where Sanchez either throws the ball to one receiver or he throws it away.”

There has been some speculation that Darrelle Revis will be assigned to cover Wes Welker at least part of the game. Lombardi explained that that’s easier said than done.

“I think it’s a hard matchup to put Revis on him because of where Welker lines up,” Lombardi said. “You never know where Wes is going to line up on the field. It’s not like he’s going to line up like Dez Bryant would and he’s going to be at the outside receiver all the time, and, boy, there I am, and Revis can find him.

“It’s tough to really create situations when you have to match up on a guy and he gets in those bunch formations and he’s the inside receiver of the bunch, and then that applies your bunch rules. When you get in a bunch formation, you just can’t say, ‘OK, I’ve got Welker, you’ve got this guy.’ Because it’s like basketball, players get picked. You have to have bunch rules and bunch concepts on defense. So, that’s what happens. It’s difficult for him to match up on just Wes Welker based on where he lines up.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation.

On Albert Haynesworth: “I think if Haynesworth gets in there, obviously, he’ll be a disruptive force as he was the first two games he gets in there. He’s tough to block for one guy. He creates problems, and he helps Vince Wilfork out in terms of being able to not always get doubled all the time. So, I think that will really help inside, especially where the Jets have not been very strong with their offensive line. They say Nick Mangold‘s going to play, but I find it very difficult to believe a guy can really play with a high ankle sprain. After watching him work out last Sunday in Baltimore on TV, I think it’s going to be tough for him to push off. He may play, but playing well is a different story. So, I think that helps the Patriots control the middle of the field.”

On Aaron Hernandez: “I think ultimately Hernandez is the X factor. Because last time they played, Alge Crumpler was catching passes that probably Hernandez should have been catching. And poor Alge just couldn’t run very well. And Alge couldn’t make any plays. Hernandez, even though he suited up for the last game, the playoff game, he wasn’t really ready to play, and I think that really hurt them.”

On the Patriots defense: “The defense is going to be a work in progress. I think the second half of the Raider game, I think you saw that they’re starting to come around. I’m not saying it’s perfect yet, but I think it’s starting to come around.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Albert Haynesworth, Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez



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