Snaps: Defensive breakdown for 2013

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
4:00
PM ET
A review of snaps played by Patriots defenders in the 2013 season and analyzing what it means (as charted in the press box, small margin for error):

Defensive end
Chandler Jones – 1,134 of 1,156 (98.1 percent)
Rob Ninkovich – 1,105 of 1,156 (95.6 percent)
Andre Carter – 155 of 1,156 (13.4 percent)
Michael Buchanan – 121 of 1,156 (10.5 percent)
Jake Bequette – 14 of 1,156 (1.2 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: In a year when there were major injuries across the defense, Jones and Ninkovich were two of the constants. They hardly ever came off the field and were among the most productive players on defense. Carter has been the primary nickel rusher since signing in late October, taking over for Buchanan (seventh-round pick, Illinois), who had the role in the first seven games of the season. Bequette, a 2012 third-round pick, has had a second straight redshirt-type year.

Defensive tackle
Chris Jones – 786 of 1,156 (68.0 percent)
Joe Vellano – 667 of 1,156 (57.7 percent)
Tommy Kelly – 221 of 1,156 (19.1 percent)
Sealver Siliga – 215 of 1,156 (18.6 percent)
Vince Wilfork – 177 of 1,156 (15.3 percent)
Isaac Sopoaga – 118 of 1,156 (10.2 percent)
Marcus Forston – 34 of 1,156 (2.9 percent)
Andre Neblett – 5 of 1,156 (0.4 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: If you’d have said at the start of the year that a rookie claimed on waivers in early September (Jones) and an undrafted free agent (Vellano) would lead the team in snaps at the position, many would have said the forecast would have been gloomy. But in a credit to the players, and also to the coaching staff, the Patriots pieced things together. Season-ending injuries to Wilfork (Sept. 29) and Kelly (Oct. 6), coupled with top-three defensive tackle Armond Armstead unexpectedly missing the year with an infection, hit at the depth at the position. Siliga has come on strong in the final month.

Linebacker
Dont’a Hightower – 861 of 1,156 (74.5 percent)
Brandon Spikes – 690 of 1,156 (59.7 percent)
Jerod Mayo – 405 of 1,156 (35.0 percent)
Jamie Collins – 298 of 1,156 (25.8 percent)
Dane Fletcher – 209 of 1,156 (18.1 percent)
Steve Beauharnais – 1 of 1,156 (0.1 percent)
Chris White – 1 of 1,156 (0.1 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: Mayo’s season-ending injury (Oct. 13) changed everything, with his three-down duties split up among multiple players. Hightower had the biggest shift, taking on more of the communication. Fletcher took over the dime defense (6 defensive backs). Spikes played more in sub packages than he probably would have otherwise, while Collins – the team’s top pick (52nd overall) – was thrust into the base defense. He shows promise but has been forced to learn on the job.

Cornerback
Aqib Talib -- 849 of 1,156 (73.4 percent)
Kyle Arrington – 834 of 1,156 (72.1 percent)
Alfonzo Dennard – 722 of 1,156 (62.5 percent)
Logan Ryan – 598 of 1,156 (51.7 percent)
Marquice Cole – 167 of 1,156 (14.4 percent)
Justin Green – 9 of 1,156 (0.8 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: With the Patriots in their sub defense on 67 percent of the snaps this season, it highlighted the importance of the fifth (and sometimes sixth) defensive backs -- players like Arrington, Ryan and Dennard. In the perfect Patriots world, they would have liked Talib and Dennard to start, with Arrington in the slot. But injuries forced some juggling, and Ryan – the third-round pick out of Rutgers – showed he was capable of stepping up. Some good depth here, with Talib’s performance at a matchup corner, particularly the stretch of games from Weeks 3-6, was as good as it gets.

Safety
Devin McCourty – 1,031 of 1,156 (89.2 percent)
Steve Gregory – 840 of 1,156 (72.7 percent)
Duron Harmon – 427 of 1,156 (36.9 percent)
Tavon Wilson – 18 of 1,156 (1.6 percent)
Nate Ebner – 5 of 1,156 (0.4 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: McCourty’s move to a full-time role at the position paid dividends as his range and steadiness helped limit some of the big plays that had hurt the unit at times in 2012. He was a well deserving second-team Associated Press All-Pro. Plans to have veteran free-agent Adrian Wilson be part of the mix never unfolded as desired, with the heady Gregory once again assuming the starting role. Harmon, the rookie third-round pick out of Rutgers, contributed more than expected as he leapfrogged Wilson (2012 second-round pick) on the depth chart.

(Penalties included; not kneel-downs)

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.