MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

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October 1, 2013

Wilfork a load for Patriots to replace

(Continued)

Tommie Kelly, the veteran, shifts to noseguard. Neither Rob Ninkovich nor Chandler Jones is your traditional three-technique end in the 3-4, but at some point, you wonder if their quickness in the pass-rush wouldn’t pay more dividends than you’re giving up against the run.

The move would place linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower inside, There’s plenty of beef there, and both have shown the penchant to fill and tackle.

I like linebacker Jerod Mayo outside on the tight end side of the field, and that leaves the wild card in the formation. Highly-touted rookie Jamie Collins fits the physical stature of the prototypical rush outside linebacker in the 3-4, the Lawrence Taylor spot if you will.

Shifting at this point of the season won't be easy, but the Patriots defense was once built on its versatility. With all these premium picks exhausted defensively by Belichick in the past six years, why not now?

3. Go elsewhere. Casey Hampton is 36 and remains a free agent that the Steelers chose not to re-sign. The “Big Snack” has been buried by injuries and nagging problems in his latter years.

If there is a replacement nose guard out there, Belichick will run them through Gillette Stadium.

4. Go off the board. Remember the days of the “amoeba” and one or no defensive linemen in the game. Perhaps it is time for the Pats to believe in the athletes on the field and get a little crazy.

Tommy Kelly and Jones up front with five linebackers and a safety switching up their gap control and meandering about gives plenty for rival offenses to ponder.

“We have a lot of talented guys on our team. Vince got hurt in the first quarter yesterday and guys really stepped up and played well for us,” said Mayo. “We ended up getting the victory, which is always is a good thing. That’s our mentality, the next man up.”

There is no panic in the Patrios camp, but there is concern. Wilfork is a Hall of Fame talent, who is done for at least this year, potentially forever. That means the defensive scheme he anchored for so long has been altered for good. 

---

Hector Longo covers the New England Patriots for The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

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