New England Patriots: 3 stars from blowout victory over the Jets

New England Patriots running back James White (28) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back James White (28) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots star performer No. 3: Ja’Whaun Bentley

It’s safe to say the Patriots inside linebackers didn’t deliver the goods in Week 1 against the Dolphins. They combined for just eight tackles, and too often let plays reach the secondary rather than thwarting them before they reached the upper level of the field. Inside linebackers will typically always lead their team in tackles, which is why it was surprising to see both Kyle Dugger and Devin McCourty, a pair of safeties, lead the way with seven each in Week 1.

Dont’a Hightower admitted it wasn’t his best game, which is understandable considering it was his first NFL game in about a year and a half. He vowed to be better against the Jets. While he was better, he ended up getting outperformed by his partner in crime Ja’Whaun Bentley.

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Bentley was everywhere on Sunday, racking up nine tackles, including one for a loss, while picking up a pass deflection too. Had he been just a step faster in recognizing where Wilson was going with the ball, there’s a good chance Wilson would have ended up with five picks rather than four.

Bentley is clearly enjoying his time alongside Hightower at the center of the Pats defense. Bentley was thrust into Hightower’s spot last season, and he was in over his head at times for sure. But now that Hightower is back calling plays for the defense, Bentley has assumed a bit more freedom, and he has excelled as a result.

The Patriots run defense wasn’t exactly good on Sunday, but Bentley did a great job at limiting the damage. He was all over the place slowing down the Jets numerous running backs, and managed to disrupt a couple of plays too. His tackle for a loss was one of the more impressive plays on the day, as he quickly recognizes what the Jets are running and sheds his blocker easily to stop the play before it ever gets going.

Bentley also stood his ground in pass coverage, and did a good job rushing the passer when called upon as well. He had a clean shot on Wilson’s first pass of the game, and it’s no surprise his throw ended up getting picked off. Bentley struggled at times last season to deal with his added responsibilities, but it’s clear he’s a better player because of it now, and he could be set to continue to develop into a top talent at inside linebacker as the season goes on.