Defensive snaps: DL rotation in focus

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
1:50
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s 23-21 season-opening win over the Bills, while analyzing what it means (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

CB Kyle Arrington – 64-of-64
S Steve Gregory – 64-of-64
DE Chandler Jones – 64-of-64
LB Jerod Mayo – 64-of-64
S Devin McCourty – 64-of-64
DE Rob Ninkovich – 64-of-64
CB Aqib Talib – 64-of-64
CB Alfonzo Dennard – 62-of-64
DT Vince Wilfork – 52-of-64
LB Dont’a Hightower – 46-of-64
DT Tommy Kelly – 35-of-64
DT Joe Vellano – 29-of-64
LB Brandon Spikes – 16-of-64
DE Michael Buchanan – 11-of-64
LB Jamie Collins – 2-of-64
CB Logan Ryan – 2-of-64
S Tavon Wilson – 1-of-64

(Penalties included.)

ANALYSIS: The defensive tackle rotation was notable, with Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Joe Vellano being shuffled in and out on a series-by-series basis. This is a spot where the Patriots’ depth is thinner than the norm. Something to keep an eye on today is whether rookie defensive tackle A.J. Francis clears waivers, as one would think the Patriots have an interest in his return to the practice squad should Francis clear and be willing to do so. The defensive tackle rotation Sunday was likely a result of Bill Belichick wanting to keep them fresh as this was the first time they were playing a full game, which we've seen in season-openers in past years as well … Seventh-round draft choice Michael Buchanan came on in the team’s lighter three-DE sub package. His presence reduced DE Chandler Jones to an inside rushing position, which was a wrinkle we saw at times in training camp. … In a reflection of how the cornerbacks are viewed by the coaching staff, Kyle Arrington stayed on the field in the base defense, while Alfonzo Dennard (No. 3 on the depth chart) came off. … The Patriots were in their nickel defense for every snap but two in the game, a result of the Bills playing almost the entire game out of their three-wide package. The lone snaps the Patriots were in their base defense came on the Bills’ fifth drive, which brought linebacker Jamie Collins on the field for his lone two snaps of the day (he is the top backup and was tapped with Brandon Spikes off for dehydration issues).

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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