New England Patriots: 3 players that need to step up and play better

Outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Jalen Mills #2 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

3 New England Patriots players that need to step up

No. 3: Jalen Mills

We will give Jalen Mills a bit of a pass because up until this past week, he had been OK in his role as the number two cornerback on this team. He played a big part in slowing down the Bucs passing attack in Week 4 by locking up Chris Godwin, and the Patriots clearly missed him in Week 5 against the Houston Texans, as his replacement, Joejuan Williams, was picked on all game long before eventually getting benched.

But Mills was absolutely awful in Week 6 against the Cowboys, earning himself a spot on this list. Heading into this game, I billed J.C. Jackson as the X factor for New England, as it was clear the secondary was going to need to have a good game in order to come out on top against Dallas. Jackson did end up stepping up against Amari Cooper (5 REC, 55 YDS), but unfortunately, it looks like I picked the wrong guy.

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Mills drew a matchup against CeeDee Lamb, and was outclassed all game long. Lamb finished with nine catches for 149 yards and two scores. Mills only made matters worse at the end of the game by laying a cheap shot on Lamb after he scored the game-winning touchdown, with Lamb proceeding to wave goodbye to him after cooking him on his way to the best game of his young career. Lamb destroyed him, and he knew it.

You have to figure the front office felt OK with moving on from Stephon Gilmore because of how Mills held up in the first four games of the season. In the four games Mills played in before this one, the most passing yards the team allowed were the 269 that went to Tom Brady and the Bucs, which was actually very good all things considered. It seemed telling that once Mills was forced to miss Week 5, the Patriots were carved up by third round rookie Davis Mills in Houston.

It seemed like things were trending up for New England once Mills was active for Week 6, but he promptly exposed by Lamb all game long. With Gilmore out of the picture, Mills is going to need to step up and hold things down with Jackson if this secondary is going to have any shot at slowing down teams aerial attacks. Jackson did his part this past Sunday, now it’s time for Mills to step up and help out his partner-in-crime.