Defensive snaps: Changes in backfield

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
8:30
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A look at the snaps played by Patriots defenders in Sunday’s win over the Broncos, while analyzing what they mean (small margin for error):

S Patrick Chung – 66 of 66
LB Jerod Mayo – 66 of 66
CB Kyle Arrington – 65 of 66
S Tavon Wilson – 65 of 66
CB Devin McCourty – 62 of 66
DE Rob Ninkovich – 60 of 66
DE Chandler Jones – 59 of 66
LB Brandon Spikes – 55 of 66
DT Vince Wilfork – 55 of 66
DT Jermaine Cunningham -- 40 of 66
CB Sterling Moore – 33 of 66
CB Alfonzo Dennard – 31 of 66
DT Kyle Love – 29 of 66
DE Trevor Scott – 13 of 66
CB Ras-I Dowling – 11 of 66
DT Ron Brace – 8 of 66
LB Tracy White – 6 of 66
DT Brandon Deaderick – 2 of 66

(Penalties included; kneel-down at the end of the second quarter not included.)

ANALYSIS: The trickle-down effect from the absence of starting safety Steve Gregory saw rookie Tavon Wilson start in his place. Wilson usually plays a linebacker-type role in the dime package (6 defensive backs), but with him bumped up the depth chart, Ras-I Dowling assumed that role over rookie Nate Ebner. Perhaps this time of thinking might lead the coaching staff to consider Dowling at more of a traditional safety position in the coming weeks. ... The other change came in the nickel package (5 defensive backs), with Sterling Moore opening the game as the fifth defensive back before being replaced by rookie Alfonzo Dennard late in the second quarter. This was Dennard’s debut and he showed up with a few plays. … Elsewhere, with rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower out with a hamstring injury, veteran Tracy White assumed his role in the base defense, which the Patriots weren’t in often. Brandon Spikes played some of the snaps that Hightower might have taken in the nickel, as he continues to work his way into more of a well-rounded player and not just a downhill run-stuffer. ... Overall, it was a pretty straight-forward defensive snapshot this week, as Peyton Manning’s command of the no-huddle limited substitutions. Rob Ninkovich, through five games, has one of the highest playing-time totals and one reason why is that he’s proven to a playmaker. He’s been disruptive the last two weeks.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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