In Wilfork's absence, Pats turn to 'next man up'

In Wilfork's absence, Pats turn to 'next man up'
September 30, 2013, 2:15 pm
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With Vince Wilfork's injury now brings up the question, "What do the Patriots do to fill the void on their defensive line?"

And you probably know their answer. Jerod Mayo spoke in a conference call on Monday, and said that New England will stick with their usual injury motto.

"We always talk about 'next man up' and we have a lot of talented guys on our team," said Mayo. "When Vince got hurt yesterday, guys stepped up and played well for us, and we ended up getting the victory. That's always a good thing.

"That's our mentality: 'next man up.' We have a lot of great people and great players, great leaders in the organization in general."

Two rookies got the chance to step into the Patriots defensive line on Sunday night, and helped New England leave Atlanta with a win. Joe Vellano finished the game with three tackles and a sack, while Chris Jones finished the game with one tackle.

"Those guys practice hard, they're always in the film room," said Mayo on Monday. "The coaches always have them ready to go. I think that's what it's all about, is preparation during the week, and those guys have fared well.

"They came into the game and did some good things. Obviously we have a lot of work to do, and gelling together to get that chemistry. But that comes with time. Last night was a good night for them."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick also spoke in a conference call on Monday, and he praised the effort of his young tackles in trying to be that "next man up."

"Joe [Vellano] is a hard working kid," said Belichick. "He was a productive player in college and he played a lot of spots at Maryland. He played end, he played tackle, he played some on the nose. He has good instincts, kind of has a nose for the ball and a good feel for what’s going on. He’s really worked hard too, of course, come in as an undrafted player and earned a spot on the roster. He’s had an opportunity to get some playing time as we went through preseason and he took advantage of those opportunities, made a few plays, had some production,, and it probably led to a little bit more opportunity and so forth. I think that there are a lot of things that [Vellano]'s improved in, in terms of technique and recognition and reaction and all that. He’s still got a long way to go but definitely making progress. He works hard every day. He’s usually the first one on and the last one off the field or close to it. He puts in a lot of extra time, tries to get better at the things he needs to work on and that’s helped him.

"This is the first game [Chris Jones] was active for," added Belichick. "So he’s had a couple weeks of practice, a lot of meetings with Coach [Patrick] Graham and extra work on the field, before and after practice, especially after practice: one-on-ones and different group drills that we do and so forth. I think he’s getting a better familiarity with our system and our communication and the techniques that we play and all that. He did some of those in Houston where he played both nose and end in their 3-4 scheme. Of course, he’s played an even front as well down there in their sub defense similar to ours and also some of that in college. I think just overall getting familiar with what we do, our calls, his assignments, block reactions – all those kind of things have gotten better over the last couple weeks. He was active for the game and had an opportunity to play some last night. Hopefully he can build on that."