After a solid rookie season that saw McKelvin living up to
his lofty first-round draft status — 11th overall in 2008 — the speedy
cornerback made one massive blunder. During a Week 1 showdown with the Patriots
on Monday Night Football in 2009, McKelvin fumbled an unnecessary kick return
late in the fourth quarter and ultimately cost the Bills both the lead and the
Since that disastrous game, McKelvin has focused on being a
reliable option in the return game. With the top-end speed of a Chris Johnson
and elusiveness most comparable to Devin Hester, McKevlin has firmly
established a reputation as one of the most dangerous return men in all of
football. And he proved it once again in Week 2.
Having been stymied on his first two punt returns of the day
in a game against the Chiefs, McKelvin adjusted to the coverage and made sure
to find the open hole. The result was an explosion past 11 Kansas City
defenders and a near-untouched 88-yard touchdown — the longest this season.
McKelvin's touchdown was an impressive display of speed,
vision and patience as he set up his blockers and reversed field according to
what he saw ahead of him. That sort of talent is what has McKelvin leading the
league with 178 return yards and a 29.7 yards-per-return average. It's also the exact reason that the Patriots should be extra prepared for Sunday's trip to Buffalo.
Patriots' Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater recognizes
the dangers that McKelvin brings to the return game, both on punts and
kickoffs, and understands what the Patriots will have to do to keep him at bay.
"Leodis, he does a lot of things well back there. He's
got game-changing speed," Slater said. "We just got to make sure he
doesn't get to the edge on us. A lot of his returns you see he gets to the edge
and he's got that speed where you're not going to catch him."
The Patriots have already succeeded in shutting down a
similar return threat once this season in Arizona's Patrick Peterson, holding the
Cardinals specialist to one return for just three yards in the game. Slater
admitted New England is taking a similar approach with McKelvin, but he hopes
that he and his teammates can contain the crafty speedster just as they did
"If we can get 10 hats to the ball and try to contain
and rally to the ball, hopefully we can at least minimize the damage that he'll
do back there," Slater added with a look of uncertainty. "With a guy
like that, it's really hard to take him out of the game completely."
Maybe the Patriots won't be able to shutout McKelvin
completely. But with dedicated focus and preparation Slater brings to each
game, the Patriots should be ready for him.
Photo via Facebook/Leodis McKelvin