Dan Leberfeld of Jets Confidential, asked Patriots Insider Jon Scott ten questions about New England for this week's matchup. Here is the next five questions covering the Patriots defense. Don't miss the other three parts of the series: Jets - Patriots
1) The Patriots have a bunch of defensive players on the injury report, who is going to play, and who isn't?
Jon Scott: The Patriots always seem to be nicked up at this point in the year, but the injuries on the list are legitimate, there aren't any phantom injuries as some have speculated. Ty Warren's ankle has been bothering him since being carted off the field earlier in the season, he could play, read should play. Tully Banta-Cain has a groin injury he suffered last week, and losing him would be a big deal. He's questionable, and could miss this game. DE Jarvis Green missed last week, after admitting he had minor surgery before the bye to address a nagging knee injury. LB Eric Alexander (a special teams ace) has also missed some time with a going injury, he also could miss this weeks' game. LB Rob Ninkovich went down last week and could also miss this week. He did not participate in practice, which is an indication he's not playing.
Worst case, the Patriots would be without two starting DE's (Warren, Green), a starting LB (Banta-Cain) and his backup, OLB Ninkovich. That would be a very big deal for the Jets.
2) The Jets didn't face Jerod Mayo the first time around. How much better is the defense with him in the lineup?
JS: With Mayo in, the Patriots are typically a better front seven, but Mayo was exposed in coverage last week, trying to matchup with backs and TEs from Indy. While the Colts had the horses to pull that offense off, I do not expect the same from the Jets. New York should have success running against an injury depleted defensive line. Mayo will make up for some of the slack, but he's just one guy - despite being one of the best LBs in the division.
3) Do the Pats miss Richard Seymour and why?
JS: At first look, you would say no, btu the Patriots have been unable to get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks at critical times with the speed-rush specialists they have in Derrick Burgess and Banta-Cain. Though Banta-Cain has had more success, when he (and Burgess) take the wide rush, it leaves huge holes on the line for the opponents to run through. It was a problem previously with the Patriots OLBs and remains an issue. With Seymour and Warren in at the end position, the Patriots were able to hold the point of attack much better. Seymour would chew up blocks - usually double blocks - to allow the linebackers to fill.
If you ask most Patriots writers if they miss Seymour, you'd probably get a mixed bag of answers, with most saying, they miss the 'old; Seymour, before he showed signs of slowing down. That's the best answer. The current Seymour, doesn't seem to have the same level of impact on defense that he did just a couple of years ago. Still, he's better than what they have in Mike Wright, Derrick Burgess and co.
|D. Butler intercepts pass in front of B. Meriweather (AP Photo)|
4) How well is the new cornerback combo playing?
JS: The rookie Darius Butler is doing very well. Veteran free agent pickups Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden are also doing well. Bodden has cemented one corner position, while Springs and Butler rotate at the other.
Again, corner is one position that has seen a lot of change for the Patriots. Jonathan Wilhite was the third defensive back at the start of the season, now Terrence Wheatley has worked his way into the mix.
The Patriots have allowed just two 300-yard passing performances (Kyle Orton, Broncos - Peyton Manning, Colts) this season. Credit for that success must go to the combination of defensive backs considering the lack of a pass rush the team has been able to produce. Butler is already showing signs of becoming one of the better defensive backs in the league as a rookie, and Bodden was a steal in free agency.
5 It doesn't look like the Pats have any pass rushers who scare anybody. How much is that hurting the defense?
JS: As mentioned in the previous answer, Tully Banta-Cain is having the most success of the Patriots pass rushers. Derrick Burgess was one of the better rushers in the league when the Raiders first acquired him, recording 27 sacks in his first two seasons in Oakland. Injuries limited him to just 24 of 32 games the past two seasons, and just 11.5 sacks combined. Patriots OLB Adalius Thomas, who has as manay sacks as Burgess (2.0) hasn't been the same dominating force the Patriots saw when they first signed him in free agency.
With the premier names on the roster underachieving, that leaves a combination of linemen and other reserve defenders to get the job done. DE Mike Wright has turned in a solid performance, to lead the team with 4.0 sacks on the season including one in the Jets-Patriots first game this season. .
While the Patriots have no "superstars" on defense, they do have depth. That depth has been sorely tested this season, giving Bill Belichick good reason to thank his decision to stockpile players who can fill in at various positions. Myron Pryor has been a pleasant surprise, one you'll likely see more of in the coming weeks as the Patriots deal with the injury bug.
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