Week 1 Risers and Fallers: Pats shut down CJ2K

Will the real CJ2K please stand up? 

I don't know who was wearing No. 28 for the Titans on Sunday, but the Patriots managed to put a deathly end to Chris Johnson's proclamation that he'll lead the league in rushing this season. 

In New England's 34-13 trouncing of Tennessee, we saw early investments from the 2012 draft class, particularly with Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. 

For anyone who feared we had another no-show wearing ocho cinco, Brandon Lloyd showed why he will be a lethal threat out wide. 

Bill Belichick will certainly find areas to improve, but yesterday's performance provided plenty of optimism for another Super Bowl trip.

Let's take a look at this week's risers and fallers. 

 

Risers 

1. Stevan Ridley: Anyone still shedding a tear over BenJarvus Green-Ellis? You shouldn't be. Ridley, the second-year back out of LSU, didn't just flash in his first start; he exploded. The surprisngly quick 220-pounder dominated the second half, totaling 125 yards and a score on just 21 carries. Tennessee isn't exactly a top-notch defense, but I expect Ridley to easily top the 1,000-yard mark at this rate. 

2. 2012 draft class: If Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower play like they did on Sunday, this defense will be scary good. Jones—who many experts pegged as a long-term project—made in instant impact playing across from former All-Pro left tackle Michael Roos, strip-sacking Jake Locker. As if that wasn't exciting enough, Hightower recovered the fumble and returned it 6 yards to the house. Second-round safety Tavon Wilson also made a name for himself as he recorded a diving interception in the end zone. It appears the Patriots have found much-needed playmakers for their young defense. 

3. Rob Gronkowski: It's tough to single out a third player, but I tip my hat to Gronk. Playing in his first meaningful game since the Super Bowl, the 6'6" beast showed he's back, reeling in six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. He showed some rust on his signature spike, but a healthy Gronk bodes well for the Pats. 

Fallers

1. Wes Welker: You can't blame Welker entirely for his uncharacteristic statline (3 receptions for 14 yards), but I expected better from Tom Brady's top target. Welker wasn't targeted often and actually played fewer snaps than the Boston TE Party and Brandon Lloyd. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a bigger issue a la Randy Moss in 2010. 

2. Nate Solder: He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great. Last year's first-round pick surrendered the team's only sack—a fairly nasty one at that. He did some solid work in the run game; however, Solder still isn't up to par as a pass protector. He'll need to improve quickly in order to keep Brady upright. 

3. Pass defense: I promise I'm not hating on the pass defense, but I still doubt whether it's good enough to shut down the league's top offenses. Devin McCourty looked better than last year, yet he still left a few plays on the field. The safeties were a bit late to the ball, and the pass rush produced just two sacks and three quarterback hits. Jermaine Cunningham looked solid as a pass-rusher, but overall the pass defense needs to step it up a notch. 

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