Found November 15, 2013 on Football and Futbol:
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For the remainder of the 2013 NFL season the New England Patriots will be playing without DL Tommy Kelly, LB Jerod Mayo and DL Vince Wilfork.  Losing any of these players out of the starting lineup is significant and hard to overcome.  Losing all three would be inconceivable if only we weren’t actually experiencing it.  Co-captain Vince Wilfork (9 tackles) was the first to make his way to the Injured Reserve with a torn Achilles.  When that happened, Patriot Nation was very concerned about what would happen to our defense.  Vince is a big body who not only stops the run, but also stops the opponents from even thinking about running up the middle.  Since Wilfork typically handles two guys at the line of scrimmage, it’s as if we have 12 players on defense at times.     Tommy Kelly (22 tackles, 2.5 sack and 1 fumble recovery) would be the next defensive starter to take a seat.  Although Kelly did not make his way to the IR until November 2nd, he hasn’t played a snap since October 6th in Cincinnati.  Keep in mind Kelly plays beside Wilfork, so with both of these men out of the lineup we are missing a 635 pound barricade from the center of the defense and have still managed to win 3 of 4 games. Co-captain Jerod Mayo (55 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery) made his way to the IR on October 16th with a torn pectoral muscle.  In addition to being a playmaker on the field, Mayo was also responsible for directing the other players as he was pretty much the quarterback of the defense by wearing the special helmet. As if losing these three players wasn’t hard enough, the Patriots are currently replacing all three with rookies.  Yes, you heard me, ROOKIES.  In other words, 26 years of NFL experience is being replaced by zero years of experience and yet they are getting the job done.  Yes, the defense has gone from being one of the top ranked to their current ranking of 21st, but these guys are certainly holding their own. Moreover, although he is not a member of the IR, CB Aqib Talib (15 tackles, 4 interceptions) has also been sidelined for the past three games making the defense have their backs even further against the wall. So, who are the rookies that have stepped up and made the most of their opportunities?  Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have stepped into the middle of the defensive line to fill in for Wilfork and Kelly.  Vellano was undrafted out of Maryland and spent some time being mentored by Wilfork during the preseason.  He currently has 33 tackles and 1 sack.  Originally drafted by the Houston Texans, Jones made his way to the Patriots after being claimed off waivers for the second time in two weeks.  Although he did not play in his first 3 NFL games, he has started the past 4 for the Patriots.  Jones has 30 tackles and 5 assists with 10 of his tackles and 2 of his sacks coming against the Jets. Jamie Collins, the Patriots top pick in the 2013 draft is the man replacing Jerod Mayo on the field while LB Dont’a Hightower takes over the communication role.  With the amount of injured players, Bill Belichick is using a group effort and multiple looks to try and compensate for the lack of experience.  The relatively recent additions of DT Isaac Sopoaga and DE Andre Carter will add some depth and experience to the young defense.  Even though the defense has shown a little more bend than it did early in the season, I think they will continue to make scoring difficult for their opponents.  Hopefully the offense will continue to score points like they did against the Steelers and the wins will continue to pile up.       Joy Manning is a New England Patriots writer for footballandfutbol.com   Follow her on twitter @joymanningNFL   https://twitter.com/joymanningNFL                              The post STATE OF THE PATRIOTS’ DEFENSE: ROOKIES REPLACING 26 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE appeared first on Football and Futbol.
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