The New England Patriots and DT Vince Wilfork went their separate ways after winning Super Bowl XLIX and the two sides are squaring off again for the third time in two years. The Patriots actually created a tribute video to Wilfork when he traveled to New England earlier this season.
While Wilfork is contemplating retirement after this season, he is still playing at a very involved level for the Texans defense. The Patriots coaches have taken note.
“[Wilfork is] physical, smart, tough,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Monday. “You’re not going to move him out of there inside. He does a nice job with that. Understands their scheme and their defense, can still do some things in terms of setting up pass rush, second moves and counters and all the rest of that stuff. He’s a multi-dimensional player. He always has been.
“Certainly, everybody knows how good he is against the run. His impact is felt in a lot of different areas and he plays a lot of snaps for them, helps coordinate a lot of the things in there for them. He’s so aware, he’s got so much experience and wisdom in terms of how to play things and how to handle them. He knows a lot of times before the ball’s snapped what’s coming. He provides them with a great presence inside and we’re certainly going to have to be aware of that. Guys inside are going to have a big challenge this week with Vince because he’s such a great player.”
Since Texans DL J.J. Watt is out for the season with a back injury, Wilfork stepped up into a leadership role. He has the most snaps of any Texans interior lineman with 545, including the playoffs, ahead of DL Christian Covington (441 snaps), D.J. Reader (432), Antonio Smith (264), or Joel Heath (250).
In recent weeks, the Texans have asked Wilfork to play 3 snaps for every 2 snaps by Reader, and twice as many snaps as the other defensive linemen. Wilfork and Reader are two dominant run defenders, although they don’t add much in the passing game; that’s okay for the Texans because Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are outstanding at getting after the quarterback.
Look for the Patriots to call upon the hurry up offense with the 35-year-old Wilfork on the field to burn through his energy and possibly capitalize on opportunities in the passing game with Wilfork contributing a lesser pass rush.