The Patriots showcased 17 different personnel combinations along the defensive front versus the Dolphins. Rob Ninkovich was part of nine. (Brad Barr – USA Today Sports Images)
NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
Over the course of 2013, the New England Patriots defensive line altered through 58 personnel groupings.
Part of it was scheme, as some players departed to the sidelines during short yardage or passing downs. Part of it was attrition, as some stayed on the sidelines for the duration.
Rob Ninkovich was not one of them.
His No. 50 jersey was spotted on the field for 1,114 snaps last season – according to Pro Football Focus – second to only teammate Chandler Jones among the league’s 4-3 defensive ends. And by the conclusion of Week 17, there were only 54 snaps in which Ninkovich hadn’t been seen on it.
In Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2014 regular-season opener, there were 39.
Ninkovich was one of the first 11 on the field for the tilt at Sun Life Stadium. But the 6’2”, 260-pound edge-rusher was not a constant across from Jones.
That wasn’t necessarily a deviation from the 2013 campaign, which saw Ninkovich step back to outside linebacker when the Patriots moved from a four-man line to a three-man line. Yet something was different on Sept. 7. (more…)