Snaps: Getting a feel for defense

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
10:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Getting a feel for the Patriots' new-look defense, and the early view of the coaching staff on personnel, through the lens of first-half playing time stats in the preseason opener:

CB Kyle Arrington -- 34 of 34
CB Devin McCourty -- 34 of 34
S Steve Gregory -- 32 of 34
LB Dont'a Hightower -- 28 of 34
S Patrick Chung -- 27 of 34
DE Chandler Jones -- 26 of 34
DE Rob Ninkovich -- 23 of 34
LB Bobby Carpenter -- 22 of 34
DT Kyle Love -- 22 of 34
LB Jerod Mayo -- 22 of 34
DE Jermaine Cunningham -- 19 of 34
DT Brandon Deaderick -- 19 of 34
DT Vince Wilfork -- 15 of 34
S Tavon Wilson -- 15 of 34
DT Marcus Harrison -- 10 of 34
CB Ras-I Dowling -- 9 of 34
LB Mike Rivera -- 7 of 34
CB Sterling Moore -- 6 of 34
LB Dane Fletcher -- 2 of 34
DE Trevor Scott -- 2 of 34

(Kneel-down at end of half not included.)

ANALYSIS: With Kyle Arrington atop the list, it reflects how he is holding off Ras-I Dowling in the competition at right cornerback. Arrington, who is considered a solid tackler, had one play he'd like to have back when he took a bad angle on a short pass to receiver Courtney Roby in the second quarter that turned into a 16-yard gain. In sub, Arrington moved inside to the slot. ... Overall, valuable game reps for rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. They were thrown right into the mix and look like Day 1 starters. ... Jermaine Cunningham was the third defensive end (behind Jones and Rob Ninkovich), entering in place of Ninkovich on the fourth series. ... Notable that first-year linebacker Mike Rivera (not Jeff Tarpinian) was in for an early series, as he was paired with Dont'a Hightower and Bobby Carpenter. Rivera (6-2, 255) had a bigger build than Tarpinian (6-3, 240), whose skill set seems to more closely mirror Carpenter's (potentially blocking his path to a roster spot). ... Hightower played on both the strongside and the middle (moving there after Dane Fletcher left with a knee injury). ... Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love look entrenched as the top two defensive tackles. With Jonathan Fanene, Ron Brace and Gerard Warren not dressing, Brandon Deaderick was the top backup at defensive tackle. Can't read too much into that based on the injury situation. ... Wilfork played the first three series and that was it. No need to over-work him. ... After much offseason speculation, it looks like we can officially end the Devin McCourty-to-safety stuff, unless there is a run of injuries. He solely played cornerback, as has been the case all camp. ... Rookie safety Tavon Wilson opened the game playing in the dime package, then got some time in base when he was paired with Steve Gregory on the fifth drive. He looks like the third option at safety. ... Gregory-Chung projects as the top safety pairing.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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