Ted Washington doesn't speak with the media. In fact, he almost gets incensed that a member of the press corps would even bother asking him a question. But while there was little reason to speak with Washington for much of the season other than fruitless attempts to get a health update, he is now back in the lineup and talking on the field rather than off of it.
The Patriots went 7-1 with Washington out of the lineup, but his presence could be the biggest addition to the defense down the stretch when temperatures drop and running the ball becomes more important. He certainly showed up last week in Houston, in just his second game back from a broken leg, when Houston, facing a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line situation, tried unsuccessfully to run it in twice. On the second play, Washington was standing in the backfield when Domanick Davis started toward the line of scrimmage.
His presence is a big reason why the Patriots can play as much 3-4 defense as they want. Even without Rosevelt Colvin on the field, the Patriots still have enough healthy linebackers and a true nose tackle to feature that front while mixing in some 4-3 looks.
Washington requires two blockers on running plays and since the offense can't assign two to everybody, Richard Seymour becomes an obvious benefactor. Seymour has been productive all season, but he had a monster game in Houston with Washington increasing his playtime to somewhere around 40 plays.
"It makes my job easier," Seymour said. "He eats up a lot of space."
Washington's 370 pounds of girth are tough for lineman to move and yet he can also play inside in a 4-3 so that Belichick can defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel can stay flexible to keep offense's off balance. But the Patriots have started each of the last two games in a 3-4 with Washington on the nose, and while he is likely to start at that spot again this week, don't be surprised if his playtime dips some as the Patriots scheme to stop Manning and the Colts passing attack and go smaller and quicker up front.
Offensively, the Patriots have started 11 different lineups in 11 games and could make it 12. Since Dedric Ward, who spent training camp with the team, now has more than a week of practice under his belt, he could start at wide receiver in place of rookie Bethel Johnson. And don't be surprised to see Antowain Smith start at running back as the Patriots try to go big against a smaller, faster defense.