On Sunday when the Patriots and Jaguars face off at Gillette Stadium, one of the keys to success for New England will be stopping Jaguars rookie running back T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon is a second round pick out of Alabama and has started off his pro career as a workhorse for Jacksonville. He has carried the ball 37 times in his first two games.
The Jaguars will want to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offense off the field and one of the best ways to do that is a steady offensive diet of Yeldon. The rookie is a strong back with good speed and vision. He is a threat out of the backfield as well and can make a defense pay for overlooking him.
When asked about Yeldon this week, Bill Belichick had high praise for the running back.
Said Belichick: “I mean he’s good. He’s definitely shown he can be a workhorse. That game last week, it was very hot. There were a lot of players who couldn’t finish the game with cramping and dehydration issues and so forth. They just kept giving him the ball. He ran hard. He’s a powerful guy. He’s got good speed, gets the ball outside, catches the ball. They use him some in the passing game, but he can carry the mail. He’s a big, strong, tough runner that has good vision, can get the ball downhill. He’s hard to tackle, and obviously, he has good stamina and conditioning levels. They gave it to him a lot and he delivered.”
The Patriots front seven will have to tackle well to prevent Yeldon from getting loose in the secondary. The defensive ends will have to work to contain similar to how they worked to contain Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, as both players will make big plays if they get outside. The first three series will be important as well. If the Patriots can prevent Yeldon from getting into a rhythm early, that can help slow him down for the rest of the game.
T.J. Yeldon is a good running back who can cause defenses problems if he is not properly accounted for. The Patriots have had some issues with run defense through the first two weeks of the season and Yeldon will be a difficult math-up for them. With young quarterbacks, Belichick has a tendency to load the box and force the quarterback to beat him and there’s a good chance that will be the strategy Sunday. Even so, Yeldon could excite the crowd on Sunday.