Vince Wilfork: Pats D ‘hasn’t been perfect but it’s getting there’
|11.03.11 at 9:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork has been lots of things to the Patriots defense this season. He’s been their most dominant player on the defensive line. He’s been one of their best pass defenders, with two remarkable interceptions.
But on Thursday – as captain of the defense, and as a prideful man – Wilfork was something else: a true spokesman and leader. He stood by his locker and tried to tell it like it is.
But in admitting the Patriots defense has had trouble stopping the opposition in the first seven games of the 2011 season, he made a plea and a promise to fans – it will and is getting better.
“It hasn’t been perfect,” he said. “Nothing’s perfect. But it’s getting there. I think guys are starting to understand each other out there on the field. they’re starting to understand what we want to do, how we want to rush. When you have seven, eight guys in a rotation, sometimes you get to play with them a lot, sometimes you don’t. That’s the main issue, is basically getting out there, knowing what all of us are doing.”
Of course, the lightning rod of the porous D has been the secondary. Wilfork says that the defensive line has to shoulder some of the responsibility for not make life more difficult on opposing quarterbacks this season. In seven games this season, only Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has failed to reach the 300-yard passing plateau.
“Absolutely, we all take part of that,” Wilfork said. “We’re not going to sit back and say, ‘They’re catching balls because they’re not covering.’ It’s part of us up front, too, not being able to get to the quarterback quick enough. It works hand-in-hand. It’s not track where you can go out and throw the shotput or run the 100-yard dash and win the medal by yourself. You win together. The quicker we understand that, the better we’ll be. And I think we understand that.
“Trust me, I don’t want any of our DBs to think it’s their fault we’re not getting off the field on third down or they called an in-cut 20 yards down the field. Twenty yards down the field gives us up front a lot of time to get to the quarterback. We have to take some of the blame, too, and we are, we are. But one thing this team has been doing, and the defense, we just keep working. Bill [Bill Belichick] challenges us every week and we keep working. We work hard. We just have to work harder. But that’s what we’ll do.”
There is one concern, though, as it concerns Wilfork. As our own Chris Price pointed out, Wilfork’s workload is up – way up – this season. With Shaun Ellis banged up, Mike Wright out for the season with a concussion and Albert Haynesworth admitting Wednesday that he’s still “knocking off the rust” seven games into 2011, Wilfork is getting little time to rest on the sideline.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wilfork played 361 of a possible 413 defensive snaps through the first six games of the season, a rate of 87.4 percent and far and away the most of any defensive lineman on the New England roster. That represents a quantum leap from where he’s been the last few seasons. Through six games in 2010, he was at 65.9 percent (283 of 429 snaps). In the same stretch in 2009, he was at 61.2 percent (221 of 361) through the first six games. And in 2008, he played 72 percent (247 of 343) of the Patriots’ defensive snaps through the first six games.
Durability has never been an issue with the Miami product — at one of the most strenuous positions on the field, he’s played all 16 games in five of the previous seven seasons, and hasn’t missed a start since 2009. But the possibility of wear and tear exists, especially for a veteran big guy (6-foot-2, 325 pounds) like Wilfork.