Patriots’ defensive front four still looking to mesh as a unit
|09.23.11 at 10:43 am ET|
FOXBORO — In their defensive fronts over the first two games, the Patriots have flashed an awful lot of combinations: three- and four-man looks, complete with several different personnel packages.
However, the four-man front that people have been angling to see — Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter at defensive end and Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth at defensive tackle — hasn’t been on the field all that much as a package. Courtesy of our friends at Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have played 149 defensive snaps this season — Carter has played 91, Haynesworth has played 53, Wilfork has played 119 and Ellis has played 87.
(Kyle Love has actually played more snaps this year than Haynesworth — 57 to 53. Among the rest of the defensive linemen, Mark Anderson has played 48 snaps, Myron Pryor — before he went on IR this week — played 37 snaps, while Mike Wright has played 15 snaps.)
With the understanding that schemes and personnel vary from series to series, the combo of Carter, Haynesworth, Wilfork and Ellis simply hasn’t had that much time together to blend as a unit. The four do have some familiarity — Haynesworth and Ellis were college teammates for a brief stretch, while Carter and Haynesworth spent time together with the Redskins — but as a collective, they are still in the early stages of their professional working relationship.
Part of that is because of what happened in camp and in the preseason — Haynesworth practiced sparingly over the summer, while Ellis was on the PUP list working through a hip injury — it’s no surprise that they are still coming together as a group. But the bottom line remains that it takes time for defensive linemen to learn how to play together.
“You have to get a feel for how each guy rushes and where they’re going to be and how Vince and Albert, how they (operate),” Ellis said. “It’s all about getting a feel for it. I put it in terms of a jump shooter, who goes out and shoots a whole bunch of jumpers all day long. He’s just getting that feel for when he gets in the game and it just comes naturally.”
Ellis acknowledges the defensive front isn’t where it should be at this time of the year, but says they shouldn’t be judged on their body of work to this point. Instead, he says take a look at the big picture — how it appears at the end of the season.
“Just see where we’re at at the end of the year,” Ellis said. “We have guys that can get it done. We just have to become more consistent throughout the year. The only way you can really pinpoint that is at the end of the year.”
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