Friday, November 8, 2013
Snaps: Patriots defense at midpoint
By Mike Reiss
With the New England Patriots on their bye week, it's a good time to step back and assess. The following are snaps played by defenders through the first nine games of the season (penalties included), with a quick-hit analysis at each position:
Quick-hit thoughts: Jones and Ninkovich have been full-time, every-down players. ... The biggest change has been the last two games as Carter has taken over for Buchanan as the top backup and sub rusher. Buchanan was taking himself out of too many plays by rushing straight up the field. ... Bequette, the 2012 third-round pick, is No. 5 on the depth chart.
Quick-hit thoughts: Who could have guessed that rookies Vellano (undrafted) and Jones (claimed on waivers on Sept. 11) would be leading all defensive tackles at this point in the season? That's what happens when starters Wilfork and Kelly are lost to season-ending injuries. Look for Sopoaga, acquired from the Eagles at the trade deadline, to move into the No. 3 spot in the rotation. He was mostly subbing in for Vellano this past Sunday. Jones didn't start playing until Week 4, so he's made up a lot of ground in a hurry as almost an everydown player.
Quick-hit thoughts: The combination of Mayo sustaining a season-ending injury Oct. 13, and Wilfork being lost for the year, has led to a spike for Spikes. The tie-in to Wilfork is with run defense, as Wilfork was a rock in the middle. Without that presence, the Patriots are using Spikes to attack downhill. In the four games that Wilfork was available this season, Spikes averaged 22.5 snaps per game. Since Wilfork was injured, it's been an average of 57 snaps per game. ... Collins, the team's top draft pick, has played limited snaps in both sub and base packages. ... Fletcher is leading the dime defense the last two weeks.
Quick-hit thoughts: Talib is the clear-cut No. 1 but he's been sidelined with a hip injury the last three-and-a-half games. Dennard has played more snaps than any seventh-round draft choice over the past three years ... Cole hadn't played on defense prior to the Week 7 game at the Jets, as the Patriots tapped their depth playing without Talib.
Quick-hit thoughts: McCourty's consistent presence and high-level play has him in the Pro Bowl discussion. ... Wilson, the controversial 2012 second-round pick, has slipped down the depth chart and is mostly a special-teamer at this point, along with 2012 sixth-round pick Nate Ebner.