FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes from Monday as the New England Patriots began preparations for this weekend’s divisional-round rematch with the Houston Texans:
— Jadeveon Clowney typically lines up on the defensive right side, meaning Patriots left tackle Nate Solder will be seeing a whole lot of the Texans’ freakishly athletic pass rusher Saturday night.
After battling injuries throughout his first two NFL seasons, Clowney finally elevated his game in 2016, recording six sacks and earning second-team All-Pro honors. He managed only one tackle and no sacks in Houston’s wild-card-round win over the Oakland Raiders but picked off one pass and broke up two others.
“Well, you see the guy, and he’s naturally very gifted,” Solder said of the 2014 No. 1 draft pick. “He’s big, he’s long, he’s very fast, he’s competitive, and he’s playing really well right now. He’s got some great coaches there. They’ve got him doing the right things. He’s playing real tough ball.”
— The Texans did not have left tackle Duane Brown when they lost to the Patriots 27-0 back in Week 3. Brown is expected to play Saturday, and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia raved about the three-time Pro Bowl pick during a conference call Monday.
“This guy is — he’s a phenomenal player,” Patricia said. “(He’s) athletic, he’s got good feet, he’s big, he’s long, he can handle power, he has really good hands. So if he gets his hands on you, he can punch and really control the pass rush or get his hands inside in the run game. He’s usually always in excellent position. Good pad level, good hand placement, good feet. So that is a big challenge for us. That is definitely different.
“He has really kind of solidified that side over there to really handle that. You know, and they’re consistent up front, inside. Obviously, all those guys have played and are playing well, and they’re smart players so they’ve done a good job. But Brown, he has been excellent for them.
— Saturday’s game could be the last of veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s career. Wilfork, who spent 11 seasons with the Patriots before signing with the Texans in 2015, said before the playoffs he’s considering retirement.
While he’s no longer the All-Pro he was a half-decade ago, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Wilfork still can cause problems for offenses with his size, athleticism and experience.
“He’s a multi-dimensional player,” McDaniels said in a conference call. “He always has been. Certainly, everybody knows how good he is against the run. His impact is felt in a lot of different areas and he plays a lot of snaps for them, helps coordinate a lot of the things in there for them. He’s so aware, he’s got so much experience and wisdom in terms of how to play things and how to handle them. He knows a lot of times before the ball’s snapped what’s coming.
“He provides them with a great presence inside, and we’re certainly going to have to be aware of that. Guys inside are going to have a big challenge this week with Vince, because he’s such a great player.”
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images