It’s hard to single out any defender for the New England Patriots, as the defense is playing at a high level right now. But one defender, who happens to be the second-highest paid defender on the team, is struggling through the first three games. That would be defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
Now, before all of you Patriots fans get angry, it’s best to consider the level of play that Wilfork has been producing, instead of just his big name. Wilfork has not produced in the box score (nine tackles, zero sacks), and it looks like the big man is being removed on third downs; that’s because he is not a pass rusher. There have been flashes in the past in which Wilfork showed that he could rush the passer, but he has definitely not been consistent in this department.
Let’s move to Wilfork’s bread and butter: run defense. That part of his game has seemed to have fallen off a bit as well. Running backs Fred Jackson, Chris Ivory and Doug Martin all had solid games against the Patriots. It’s definitely not fair to blame all of that on Wilfork, but he has noticeably been pushed around and contained a lot more than usual. So far, Wilfork has failed to live in the opposing backfield, which is his game.
Most people could have seen Wilfork’s struggles coming when head coach Bill Belichick decided to switch to a base 4-3 defense. Wilfork is mostly lost in this defense, especially considering that Belichick likes to rush four in almost every passing situation. That will tire a big man like Wilfork out, which is a detriment to his run defense. That’s not good, considering that Belichick does not have much depth at the defensive tackle position.
If Wilfork’s play continues like this, it will be hard to justify keeping him after this season, considering his $7.5 million salary for 2014.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.