The Patriots’ secondary is preparing for a tough task Sunday against the Chargers, who boast a pair of 6-foot-5 wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, as well as 6-foot-4 tight end Antonio Gates.
The three big-play targets are a major reason why quarterback Philip Rivers led the NFL last season in yards per passing attempt (8.71).
“The biggest thing is to just kind of compete because those guys have that advantage,” Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty said. “When the ball is in the air, just try to go attack the ball, get different ways to get the ball out. In this league, there’s a lot of bigger, stronger guys, so you’ve got to kind of stay after it, stay on them and make everything tough.”
In 2009, Jackson and Floyd tied for fourth in the NFL with 17.2 yards per reception. Last season, Floyd was again fourth in the league with 19.2 yards per catch. Gates was second among tight ends with 15.6 yards per haul.
Obviously, the Chargers can use jump balls to their advantage, so the Patriots’ defensive backs know they’ve got to be technically sound in other areas by maintaining good position and competing at a high level.
Height isn’t a be-all, end-all in the passing game, but it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. After all, it’s one asset the Chargers have at their disposal in their upper-echelon offensive attack.
“We’ve just got to play our techniques the way we’re coached to do,” Pats’ cornerback Leigh Bodden said. “It’s really not going to change. We really just want to jump the routes.”