The Big Nickel: Thursday with Vince Wilfork, an injury update and meet the two new guys

December 16, 2010 - 8:54 am
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FOXBORO '€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday: 1. The highlight of most Thursdays is the appearance of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, and he certainly didn'€™t disappoint this week. In an almost 10-minute Q&A with reporters he discussed a wide variety of topics, including the importance of playing with consistency, forcing takeaways and the play of both Gerard Warren and Jerod Mayo. Here are a few highlights: On playing with consistency: '€œWhen your number is called, you have to be ready to perform, and perform pretty well, so I think as a team, it'€™s not just certain positions. You just can'€™t say it'€™s just the defensive line or the offensive line. I think as a team, you have to be consistent, day in and day out, and most of the time, that starts in practice. I think any football team will tell you that preparation is the key to everything. If you don'€™t prepare well, you won'€™t have a chance on game day. So we'€™ve been through those days. We came through a practice in a week where we say, '€˜You know what? I hope we have it on Sunday.'€™ And it wasn'€™t the case. But we'€™re more consistent. We'€™re starting to get more consistent. Everybody is starting to rally around each other and trust one another out there on the field. So I'€™m happy with the way things are going, but we just have to keep striving forward and keep our head down and keep fighting. It'€™s the only thing we can do right now.'€ On the Patriots'€™ defense and its'€™ ability to force takeaways: '€œThat'€™s something we'€™re proud of. We preach it every day in practice. Guys make plays all the time in practice and I'€™m telling you, it sounds like I'€™m saying this a lot, but I'€™m going to tell you that you can'€™t get enough practice. The more you do in practice, the more plays you make in practice, the more consistent you are in practice, you have a good chance of bringing that out on game day. And it'€™s been working for us. And I think that'€™s the best thing, because everybody is starting to see what we do in practice, we can carry that over into the games. And if we do carry it over into games, we'€™ll be OK. So we always talk about turnovers, getting ahead in the turnover game.'€ And the ability to turn those into points: '€œThat'€™s even bigger. We'€™ll try to continue to do that, so ... I love giving Tom Brady a short field to work with. The best quarterback in the game. Our job is to keep him in those situations. The more we do in practice and the more plays you make in practice, we just have to have confidence in the game that we'€™ll have the same success.'€ On his relationship with Warren: '€œHe'€™s a helluva player, a helluva person. Smart, intelligent when it comes to football '€” and off the field. But it'€™s easy when you can have a veteran, a 10-year vet come in and adjust to a new system and catch on. And he'€™s done that. Everything we'€™ve asked of him, he'€™s done it. He'€™s taught people, the rookies. Even me. We sat down and watch film all the time. It'€™s very special when you sit back and hear him talk about the game itself. He'€™s very, very smart, so I'€™m happy to have him on this side with me, and he makes my job a little easier at times and probably vice-versa. We'€™re in it together, and he'€™s a heckuva player and I'€™m happy he'€™s here. He'€™s been doing a good job for us every week. I'€™m pretty sure he'€™s excited to be here, excited to be a part of something, a winning organization and a great group of guys.'€ And on Jerod Mayo '€” who he said could play at the U '€” and his tackle totals: '€œI'€™ll tell you, he'€™s an every down player. He'€™s every bit of a linebacker you'€™d want from a defensive person to a football player. And to be a middle linebacker in this game, you have to be able to tackle well. I know he'€™s taking it a little personal if he misses a tackle or whatever. I don'€™t think he misses many. I'€™m not sure, you'€™d have to ask him. I don'€™t think I'€™ve seen him miss one. But don'€™t quote me on that one. But he'€™s a very good tackler. He works his tail off. We see that guy working, his backers see him working, [and it] makes it easier for us to go out there and work, especially when you have somebody that'€™s giving 100 percent every play and playing every snap, that'€™s tough. The guy'€™s on special teams. He'€™s put together very, very well and he'€™s meant a lot to this organization and this team, especially for me to be a defensive lineman. He actually means a lot for me. Even though I'€™m taking up blocks for him I'€™m happy to have a man like Jerod with me. He'€™s probably one of the top guys at the position right now.'€ 2. Four defensive linemen were the only players not on the field during the media portion of practice on Thursday afternoon: Myron Pryor (back), Gerard Warren (knee), Ron Brace (head) and Mike Wright (concussion) were all absent from the beginning of practice, held in sweats and shells on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium. The good news? After not practicing on Wednesday because of a rib injury he suffered in Sunday'€™s win over the Bears, rookie cornerback Devin McCourty was on the field. (Quarterback Tom Brady was also back out on the field, although that wasn'€™t a surprise, given his practice schedule over the last month or so.) It doesn'€™t necessarily mean he'€™s good to go on Sunday, but it'€™s an encouraging sign if you are a Patriots fan, especially if Aaron Rodgers is able to play for the Packers. The bad news? The Patriots are missing four defensive linemen, which eats in to the depth along the defensive front. Expect newcomer Eric Moore to be asked to contribute even more than he did last week against the Bears, as well as rookies Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love. 3. With the movement of cornerback Jonathan Wilhite to season-ending injured reserve because of a hip injury and McCourty a question mark because of a reported rib injury, look for the Patriots to lean on newcomer Chevis Jackson this Sunday against Green Bay. Jackson, who signed on Dec. 10 as a free agent, has experience as a slot corner. As a he would most likely step in for Wilhite, who was working mostly as a slot cornerback this season. While the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Jackson said  he'€™d be willing to play anywhere, he did acknowledge that most of his experience has come in the slot. '€œMost of my work in Atlanta was in the slot. Maybe 60-40 inside,'€ said the corner, who played in 16 games as a rookie with the Falcons in 2008 and 15 the following season. In 31 total games with the Falcons, Jackson started three and had 51 tackles, one sack and one interception. Jackson was released by the Falcons on Sept. 4. and signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 18. He played in two games for Jacksonville this season before being released on Nov. 17. One thing he certainly has in his favor is the fact that he played at LSU under Nick Saban, and many former Tigers say the transition from a Nick Saban-coached defense to a Bill Belichick-defense is a fairly easy one. '€œSaban recruited me, and his defenses were kind of the same,'€ said Jackson, who was inactive last week against the Bears. '€œPretty much some of the calls, some of the philosophies. The formations and things. ... Just little stuff like that.'€ 4. Another new guy who could be asked to contribute more this week because of injuries is Moore. The 6-foot-4, 268-pound defensive lineman out of Florida State saw a lot of action last week against the Bears, and came away with four tackles, a sack for 10 yards, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss. Moore, who drafted by the Giants in 2005, has bounced around since then, playing with the Saints, Rams and Panthers '€” as well as a brief stint in the UFL '€” before signing with New England on Dec. 3. But it'€™s a long way from the Florida Tuskers to Foxboro. '€œIt was pretty cool. It was just like the NFL '€” same guys. Talent level is there. You just have to go out there and work and get better,'€ Moore said of his UFL experience. '€œI knew I was going to have an opportunity somewhere. I was just keeping my faith in God and stay focused on my family. It was this opportunity that came and the Lord gave it to me and I took advantage of it. '€œIt was a humbling experience. I was already a humble guy, and it made me even more humble when I had to go to the UFL and went down there and worked hard, and now, I'€™m here.'€ Wilfork and Moore went head-to-head as Florida high schoolers. '€œHe was a heck of a player then. So, it didn'€™t surprise me that he could come in here and pick up the game and be effective,'€ Wilfork said. '€œThe Eric Moore I remember is the Eric Moore I saw this past week, so that'€™s a positive sign. He'€™s happy, so hopefully we can continue to rally around each other and continue to play good football.'€ 5. We'€™ll give Thursday'€™s final word to Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders. With all the talk about how this New England offense is comparable to the 2007 edition, I asked him how the two compare. '€œBy our DVOA stat, the Patriots offense ranks now at about 48 percent above league average, while the 2007 offense ranked at 45.2 percent,'€ he wrote in an e-mail. '€œOpponent adjustments have a lot to do with it. Not to get too deep into the calculations, but in 2007, Football Outsiders had to adjust the Patriots'€™ offensive production DOWN slightly because they beat up on some really weak defenses. This year, we have to adjust UP because they are beating great defenses. Even if you don'€™t get too statistical, common sense says that beating up on the Steelers, Jets, and Bears at home in the snow is more impressive than beating up on teams like the 2007 Bills and Bengals. '€œThere are a lot of stats in which the 2007 and 2010 Patriots are neck and neck. Both of the teams have third down conversion rates near 48 percent. The passer efficiency ratings (not a great stat, but useful enough for general comparison) are 116 (2007) and 108 (now), close enough for government work. As soon as you factor in the strength of the recent opponents, even by dead reckoning, you have to conclude, at the very least, that it is a dead heat.'€ Check out more from Mike on his comparison between the 2007 and 2010 New England offense here. For a full look at Football Outsiders and DVOA, check out this story here.