The New England Patriots announced their first official participation report for their match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, and defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was the only player not to participate.
Siliga went down with a foot injury in the first half against the Raiders on Sunday and did not return. Assuming Siliga doesn't play on Monday against the Chiefs, what do the Patriots do to defend the run?
The most likely answer is that we'll see a mix of the 3-4 and 4-3 that we saw against the Raiders.
Before you begin to bite your nails and nervously sweat over the prospect of the Patriots returning to the 3-4 that failed spectacularly against the Dolphins, this shouldn't be a repeat of that.
Second year defensive tackle Chris Jones didn't play in Miami, and has made serious strides in defending the run thus far in 2014. Believe it or not, the Patriots have actually defended the run better with Chris Jones on the field than Siliga:
Patriots have allowed 172 yards on 44 carries (3.9 ypc) with Sealver Siliga on the field. 52 yards on 18 carries (2.9) with Chris Jones.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) September 23, 2014
Of course, some of that is circumstantial, and it is a small sample size (Jones has only played 45 snaps), but his play definitely looks improved to this point.
Jones will be either the 3-4 RE or the 4-3 RDT next to Vince Wilfork. In the 3-4, Joe Vellano is going to see the biggest jump in snaps because of Siliga's absence. Vellano had serious struggles in week one as a base defensive end in the 3-4, but showed marked improvement against the Raiders as a left end.
The most important aspect in the improved play of Vellano and Chris Jones is that it means that Chandler Jones can stay on the edge, where he is most effective. The Patriots are still probably best off in four man fronts that feature Wilfork and Chris Jones on the inside with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on the edge. The Patriots do play the Chiefs on Monday, and their running game is going to be better than that of Oakland regardless of who is running the ball (Knile Davis or Jamaal Charles). However, the thought of a Chris Jones - Wilfork - Vellano defensive line suddenly doesn't seem as dooming as it did two weeks ago.