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#1 2019-02-12 08:13:37

liny195
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Registered: 2010-10-12
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The New England Patriots entered Sunday night's game against the Green

Bay Packers with three of their offensive starters out due to injury: tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with back and ankle issues Eric Rowe Jersey , running back Sony Michel hurt his knee two weeks ago, and right guard Shaq Mason suffered a calf injury last week. Despite absences, however, the unit did not appear to skip too big of a beat and hung 31 points on the Packers.This, in turn, is a testament to the Patriots' offensive depth and next-man-up mentality. Take the running back position, as an illustration of that. Long-term injuries to Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead as well as Michel's aforementioned knee issue left the team with just two true backs on its 53-man roster: James White and Kenjon Barner, both of which better suited to serve as change of pace and receiving backs."We thought we had good depth at running back and we did at one point in the year," Patriot head coach Bill Belichick said during his press conference after yesterday's game. "Depth in August and depth in November are two different things. We have what we have now and hopefully that'll improve." What Belichick's team has now is wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson leading the team in rushing attempts the last two weeks.For the former first-round draft pick, however, this situation does not appear to be an issue: "I mean, it's the next man up — it's the NFL," Patterson said after yesterday's game against Green Bay that saw him register 11 carries for a team-high 61 yards as well as a touchdown. "If you can play, you can play. We didn't like that the guys weren't ready, but every guy is going to step up because this is our job. This is our life."Patterson's productivity did not happen by accident: his big-play ability is well known and has been on display multiple times over the course of his five-year career. Given the shortage at the running back position, the Patriots have now decided to use this for their advantage and to create depth at a position of need. It's the same at Gronkowski's tight end spot with fullback James Develin serving as a rotational option, or along the offensive line where backups LaAdrian Waddle and Ted Karras recently had to start."You got injuries, you got all the stuff you have to deal with," running backs coach Ivan Fears said last week. Wide receiver Julian Edelman echoed this sentiment after yesterday's win against the Packers: "We got a lot of playmakers. It'll be good to have [Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel] back when they get back. Until then, we just have to keep going out and try to do what we got to do to win games."New England did just that yesterday. Whether it was Patterson seeing regular carries Mike Gillislee Jersey Salute to Service , or Dwayne Allen and James Develin serving as the tight end depth chart, or Ted Karras filling in at right guard, the Patriots were able to continue moving along as if nothing had happened. This speaks for their depth, their preparation, and for their outlook this season: few if any teams in the league have the roster composition and high-quality coaching staff to deal with injuries atop the depth chart."What looks like good depth can get washed away in a hurry," Belichick said yesterday when emphasizing the need for a broad roster. "Sometimes you have guys step in where you think you might not have depth and they step in and play to a level that maybe you didn't quite anticipate, then things look a lot better in a hurry whether it's at that position or somewhere else. That's the National Football League."During the Patriots' 31-17 victory against the Packers, this all was on full display: New England's depth options did their jobs when asked to deliver and allowed the team to stay on course despite the recent run of injuries. The Indianapolis Colts made a firm commitment to Matt Eberflus in January.They stuck to it after the man who initially hired Eberflus to be Indy's defensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, reneged on a deal to become the next coach and they lived up to their promise after eventually hiring Frank Reich in February.It's worked out well for the Colts."He's a consistent guy, he's got a consistent message every day and he believes in the system," middle linebacker Anthony Walker said Tuesday. "That's what you want as a player, a guy who believes in the system."The system looks awfully familiar to longtime Colts' fans.Eberflus reinstalled the Tampa 2 defense, the zone concept popularized by Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy. General manager Chris Ballard saw it work in Chicago under Lovie Smith, one of Dungy's former pupils, and Reich worked with it on Dungy's staff when he first started coaching in 2006. Indy capped that season by winning the Super Bowl.The low-key personalities and focused approaches also proved a perfect match.But the real investment came in free agency and the draft.While Colts fans waited impatiently for Ballard to make a splashy move, he mostly avoided the high-priced free agents and instead went with less-familiar names who could excel in Eberflus' system.The results have been remarkable.Linebacker Darius Leonard, a second-round pick, has a league-high 104 tackles and Walker has 67 tackles, nearly four times as many as he had in 2017.Defensive end Kemoko Turay has shown flashes of being a disruptive pass rusher and Tyquan Lewis showed promise in his first two games after missing the first eight with an injured toe. Both were second-round draft picks in April."We're getting to the ball James Develin Jersey , causing turnovers," Leonard said. "We don't do a lot, there's not a lot of thinking so it's very easy for me to go out and play."Not just for the young guys, either.Jabaal Sheard moved from outside linebacker to defensive end and already has matched his sacks total (5陆) from last season. Veteran defensive linemen Margus Hunt has gone from rotation player to starter and has had a career-best season.Safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker have been rounding into form after missing most of last season and part of this season with injuries, and outsiders have noticed a difference."They hustle. They have great team effort. They have very good team speed. They stunt the front and they are all very good hitters," Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden said recently. "They seem to really like each other. They seem to have a really good, I think, overall down to down competitive nature about them."The individual numbers only tell part of the story.After finishing 30th in the league in yards allowed per game in 2016 and 2017 and 26th or worse in four of Chuck Pagano's six seasons as head coach, Indy has jumped to No. 20 this season. Through 10 games, they have 26 sacks and are on pace for their highest total since 2013.The Colts have allowed 17.5 points to their past four opponents and only four teams have more takeaways than Indy (19).Not surprisingly, the Colts (5-5) have won all four, moving back into the playoff picture largely because of a defensive resurgence few expected in Eberflus' first season."I think you have to go through this process. Sometimes you take a couple steps forward and one step back or three or four steps forward and one or two back," Eberflus said. "But it's really about the guys buying into it."It could be just the start.The young Colts are still getting acclimated to Eberflus and his scheme, are still learning how to play consistently well and still must demonstrate they can withstand the late-season rigors to make a playoff run.But for the first time in a long time, the Colts' defense no longer looks like the weak link. Instead, Eberflus has demonstrated just how promising the future could be."I think guys are buying into the style slowly but it's not consistent yet," Eberflus said. "Today in the film room we pointed out all the loafs and all the missed assignments, so we can definitely get better week to week and now it's about being consistent week to week."Notes: With the likelihood of starting center Ryan Kelly out with an injured left knee, the Colts signed center Josh Andrews off the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. ... Indy also put cornerback D.J. Killings on injured reserve and waived cornerback Arthur Maulet.

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