|Can Dominique Easley, Casey Walker and Zach Moore give Vince Wilfork more of a breather?||10.25.14 at 3:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork can’t play every down anymore. Nor do the Patriots want him playing all the time anymore.
After playing 64 of 69 snaps in Buffalo against the Bills, Wilfork’s snaps fell to 78 percent (68 of 87 snaps) against the Jets. Still, Wilfork is certainly on pace to earn his 70 percent participation clause that will kick in his $3 million guarantee. He has already played 78.9 percent of his snaps this season. His 377 snaps is 162 more than Chris Jones, the next closest on the line.
But with injuries to Sealver Siliga and Chandler Jones and the departure of Tommy Kelly, there’s a need to make sure there’s insurance behind Wilfork.
This is what the Patriots had in mind when they drafted Dominique Easley and Zach Moore and signed Casey Walker off the Carolina Panthers practice squad in late September. It’s why they have brought in Alan Branch to see if they can resurrect his career after some off-the-field transgressions.
But most of the focus now is on Easley, a player like Wilfork who could make the transition from inside to outside on the defensive line.
“Easley has really played all those spots across the board from college and even back from when we had him here in the spring and then when he was able to practice in training camp,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “He’s worked all the way from outside the tight end to on the center’s nose, so everywhere in between: zero to two-I, three, four, five, six, seven, nine. He’s been at every spot.
“That is unusual. He’s got a unique set of skills that allow him to do that. [He's] quick enough to play outside, enough playing strength to play inside, to a degree. Good instinctiveness in terms of recognizing blocking schemes. There are a lot of different things that can happen when you’re in there between a guard and a center or a guard and tackle compared to when you’re outside of a tight end. You’re seeing the game kind of from the inside out as opposed from the outside in. it’s different. I’d say there aren’t a lot of guys that comes real easy to. There are a few, but not a lot.”
|Vince Wilfork says getting back to basics will help Patriots slow down Matt Forte, Bears offense||10.23.14 at 10:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork knows there are few offensive options around the league like Matt Forte.
The 29-year-old running back is the driving element of the Chicago offense — after seven games, he leads the Bears in rushing (111 carries, 448 yards, three TDs) and receiving (52 catches, 436 yards, two TDs). The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder, who was a second-round pick out of Tulane in 2008, is the only back in the league who has at least 50 catches and 50 carries through the first seven games of the season. He’s first in the league in catches, and second in the league in combined yards from scrimmage with 884.
“He’s a threat every time he steps on to the field in a number of different ways: passing game, running game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Forte. “He’s tough, great vision, great balance. He definitely has the ability to turn nothing into something in a hurry and he can turn something into a lot in a hurry too.
“[He's a] hard guy to tackle, does a good job of creating space for himself and finding openings, getting to places where there are fewer defenders and then taking advantage of it. But even when he’s boxed in or guys get a shot of him, he still makes yards. He’s a terrific player; couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s a very, very complete player.”
With Forte, the idea isn’t so much stopping him, but slowing him down. Wilfork says there “aren’t a lot” of backs out there who are as much of a multidimensional threat as Forte.
“The way he catches the ball out of the backfield, you’d think he was a receiver,” Wilfork said Thursday after practice. “He can run the ball well. You saw it last week, the first drive of the second half what they did with him getting the ball in his hands and they want down and scored. He was the one who put them in the end zone on that drive.
“I can see them doing a lot more of that coming into this game,” he added. “Trying to get that running game started so it can open up the play-action pass and get the ball down vertical to those big receivers. But we have to do a real good job up front of trying to take away their run game.”
While Forte is a threat on multiple levels, for a defense that’s yielded 190 or more rushing yards in three of their seven games to open the season, his work on the ground is what stands as the most sizable threat to the Patriots. Wilfork, who said in the wake of the win over the Jets that the issues facing the run defense were fixable, noted that many of the issues come down to fundamentals — namely, being able to tackle properly.
“Sometimes, we miss tackles and overplay some things, and that costs us. It costs us big,” Wilfork said. “We have to be sure tacklers. We have good tacklers, but we just have to put it together on a regular basis. That’s what it comes down to, no matter how you slice it. We have to tackle.
“We have to be able to get off the field in third down and in the red area — just make them kick field goals. We have to continue to play good football in the red area. I think that was one of the things that helped us last week was in the red area, just allowing them to kick field goals instead of giving up seven points. That was probably the only thing we did well. But it was just another building block for us. We have to continue to get better an execute our game plan to the highest level, especially against [the Bears].”
|Vince Wilfork ‘disappointed’ in Patriots run defense||10.17.14 at 2:05 am ET|
FOXBORO — Although the Patriots beat the Jets 27-25 on Thursday Night Football to move to 5-2 on the year and won their third straight game in the process — there are still plenty of improvements to be made — particularly when it comes to defending the run.
Not given any favors with the loss of Jerod Mayo to season-ending knee surgery this week, the Patriots allowed 218 yards on 43 carries to the Jets — including a 21-carry, 107-yard performance to running back Chris Ivory. The 218 yards were the most rushing yards the Jets have had in a game since Oct. 14, 2012 against the Colts.
This is something the defense is not taking lightly.
“I’m very stingy when it comes to the rush defense,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. “That’s the one thing I’m disappointed in [the run defense]. We’ll fix it, we always do and hopefully we can get this thing rolling consistently.”
Thursday marked the third game this season where the Patriots have allowed 190 or more rushing yards — the Dolphins ran for 191 in Week 1 and Kansas City ran for 207 in Week 4. Also, Bill Belichick has allowed more than 200 yards rushing to an opponent 13 times during his tenure in New England and two of them have come this year.
“Luckily we played well in the red area, kept them out of the end zone and kept the points down, but didn’t do a good enough job in the running game — didn’t do a good enough job on run force, didn’t do a good enough job on third down obviously,” Belichick said. “We just weren’t consistent in any phase of the game.”
The Patriots entered Thursday with the fifth-best overall defense in the league, but the passing defense carrying the group as they are fourth in the NFL defending the pass, compared to 14th against the run. This is much improved as just two weeks ago they were 23rd.
|Vince Wilfork: ‘Best way to answer anything is to win’||10.06.14 at 2:40 am ET|
FOXBORO — Six days ago in Kansas City the Patriots got manhandled in a 41-14 defeat before a national television audience on Monday Night Football.
Following the loss, it was a long week in New England with criticism going all around, no one left behind — even quarterback Tom Brady got his fair share. But in typical Patriots fashion, they responded in the only way they know how — a blowout, 43-17 win of their own over the previously undefeated Bengals on Sunday Night Football.
“Best way to answer anything is to win,” 11-year veteran Vince Wilfork said. “If we were sitting here undefeated, everybody would be blowing smoke up us, how great we are. That’s why we don’t pay attention to anything outside of here. Our job is what we have in here, being able to put it on the practice field and put together a good game plan and try to execute. Tonight we did well. We executed well. That’s something that we’ve been lacking this season.
“We’ve been inconsistent, so we have to start being more consistent playing football, and I think today was a good day to get it going against a good football team, being on Sunday Night Football, Sunday Night Football again on national TV [with] everybody watching. You’ve just seen two different teams from Monday night to tonight ‘ two different teams. It just goes to show you we’re capable of doing it. We just have to continue to do it every day and every week just being more consistent and we’ll be alright.”
|Tedy Bruschi on D&H: ‘Right now, [Tom Brady] isn’t one of the elite quarterbacks’||09.30.14 at 4:14 pm ET|
In the aftermath of the Patriots’ 41-14 demolition at the hands of the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, former Patriots linebacker (and current ESPN analyst) Tedy Bruschi pulled no punches in examining the state of his former team. He suggested that the Patriots were out-coached when they were on defense (praising Chiefs coach Andy Reid for using misdirection plays to open up the field, particularly the weak side of the line for the running game) and simply beaten up when their offense was on the field.
“You’re comparing the world championship teams, of course there’s a major talent deficit,” Bruschi, in his weekly interview on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, said. “They’re not playing at a world championship level.”
He noted that Chandler Jones can be coached to improve his technique and do a better job of holding his ground on the weak side of the line for runs, while adding that he felt that Vince Wilfork had performed adequately at the point of attack, with the issue being the large holes emerging next to him on the line. Bruschi said that he felt the defense would have to be the defining presence of the team given some of the offensive shortcomings on display that show little possibility of immediate resolution.
No one was beyond blame for the offensive woes. Asked if Tom Brady remained an elite quarterback, Bruschi was candid.
“Right now, he’s not one of the elite quarterbacks, just based on performance. I can’t say that,” said Bruschi. “Based on numbers, wins and losses, accuracy, throws down the field — no. He’s not. He’s not playing like it.”
|Vince Wilfork on D&H: Patriots ‘haven’t played our best game yet’||09.22.14 at 9:12 pm ET|
With the Raiders driving deep into Patriots territory at the end of the game, Wilfork helped close out the New England victory with a key interception — the third of his career. Two of his interceptions have come against Oakland.
“That play I caught it, but that play probably wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates,” Wilfork said of the interception. “I just happened to be there to catch it. That’s the main thing.”
Continued Wilfork: “It was something I thought I was going to be able to get. I didn’t know when, but I actually called it earlier this year. I think going into this past week, I was talking to Chandler [Jones] and I told him, ‘I think I have one coming soon.’ A little vision I had. Some call vision that I saw in my sleep. A little birdie tapped me on the shoulder and was like, ‘You’ll be ready.’ ”
The Patriots defense allowed nine points to Oakland on Sunday and just 16 combined in the last two weeks. Wilfork said the defense still has room for improvement throughout the season.
“We haven’t played our best game yet, it has yet to come,” Wilfork said. “The more we practice at it, the more consistent we become, I think you’ll see the defense play a lot better. It’s just one of those things each week where you have to continue to just grind away. Things we make mistakes of, correct them and move forward. And get better each day. I think that’s one thing we have done from the first week to now. We’ve gotten better each week. And that’s the only thing you can ask for. It’s still early in the season.”
Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, part of a defense that has allowed just 16 points combined in the last two games, made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Monday to recap Sunday’s win. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Jones and his teammates kept the Raiders out of the end zone in a 16-9 victory, but he said there are plenty of things the team needs to work on.
“I feel like we also have room for improvement, always room for improvement,” Jones said. “We definitely could have done better, but a win is a win, and we’ve got to keep moving forward. That’s our thing is to keep moving forward.”
Jones was complimentary of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr last week, and he said Carr was quick to offer thanks — among many comments he made during Sunday’s contest.
“I spoke to Derek Carr during the game, actually,” Jones said. “He was one of the quarterbacks that actually spoke the most — most of any quarterback I’ve ever played against. … Not trash, not trash at all. Stuff like [saying hello]. Or, ‘You’re not going to catch me. It was strange.”
Added Jones: “I had said in an interview before the game, I don’t see Derek Carr as being a rookie quarterback — which I don’t, he’s a very good player. I guess he’s one of those guys who reads articles about him, because early in the game he came up to me and said ‘Hey, Chandler, I really like what you said about me.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, thanks.’
“He’s a really good quarterback. He’s a very good quarterback. We didn’t get a chance to get him, because that’s credit to him. He has very good awareness in the pocket. There were a few times when I would have got another quarterback or someone that stood back there. He got away from me a few times, which is credit to him. He has very good scrambling abilities. He’s a young quarterback; I still don’t see him as a rookie quarterback. He’s a good player.”
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