If the New England Patriots 38-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday couldn't have gotten any worse, the Patriots also lost their best two defensive players for the foreseeable future in Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez.
While it’s impossible to replace the production and level of play of the two, New England is confident with the guys on the roster stepping up to help fill their void.
“Obviously, when you lose two players of that magnitude, there’s going to be a little lull,” Jerod Mayo said on Tuesday. “But win, lose or draw or losing players, we kind of have that next man up mentality and really trying to just change the page as quick as possible. I don’t anticipate a lull for many of the guys.”
New England lost their first-round cornerback on just the second drive of the game, when he injured his right shoulder making a tackle. Gonzalez’s injury may cost him a large chunk, or perhaps the entire rest, of his rookie campaign and leaves New England without their top cover corner.
“Obviously, it hurts to lose a guy like Gonzo,” Mayo shared. “But at the same time, we’re kind of going through all that whole process, the game plan process right now and we feel pretty confident that we have guys that could fill that role.”
As for Judon, the star pass rusher is set to undergo surgery on Wednesday for a bicep injury that will reportedly cost him at least the next two months. While Judon’s presence may be impossible to replace in the locker room, Mayo again sees multiple players who can help fill his void on the field.
“We have other players. It’s not going to be just one guy, it’s going to be multiple guys trying to fill that role,” he explained. “But in the meantime, feel pretty confident about the guys that are on the roster.”
One of those players expected to see an increase in snaps in Judon’s absence is rookie Keion White. The second-round pick has impressed in limited fashion this season (33 percent of defensive snaps) but will now have a chance to make an even larger impact.
“Every week we try to put a little bit more on his plate,” Mayo said of the rookie. “He’s one of these guys who kind of doesn’t fit in any mold, like the [Deatrich] Wise category or the Judon category — can kind of do both to a certain extent. And so he’s, he’s doing well and he’s growing each and every week in the classroom and on the field.
“Keion’s going to play more, he’s going to play more, simply said. And we really need him to show up, so there’ll be different guys on the roster to kind of help fill that void even with, Wise and those guys like that. We don’t just play four down, we don’t just play three down, we’re kind of pretty versatile with our players and also our scheme.”
New England’s first test without their two defensive stars will come on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, who have also struggled to score points early this season.
“It’s 11 guys out there on defense, never just one guy,” Mayo said. “And those guys understand when you do have an injury, [it’s] just next-man-up mentality.”