By Gregory Hunt
The next opponent for the New England Patriots is a franchise that has beaten them in their last three meetings, including twice in the Super Bowl, but the Patriots aren't buying into any hype surrounding their upcoming contest against the New York Giants. True to the team's way of conducting business, the Patriots are quietly going about preparing for their next game. For New England quarterback Tom Brady, that preparation includes plenty of practice time with second-string and third-string players who may be needed in the event of an injury.
'Everybody's role is really important.'
The Patriots were a relatively healthy team for the first month of the season, but in October the team was hit with a series of injuries, particularly along the offensive line. Then on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, New England suffered its biggest loss when dynamic running back Dion Lewis went down with a torn ACL. He was subsequently placed on the injured reserve list, ending his season.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Brady was asked about how he balances the need to practice both with his starters, and with his back-up players who may be called to action at a moment's notice.
"You could be second on the depth chart or third on the depth chart and really quickly become first on the depth chart," said Brady. "So, you have to work with everybody and have confidence in everybody. You can't just spend all your time with three or four guys."
New England's three tight ends, Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler and Michael Williams, have all remained healthy this season, but among the running backs and wide receivers that have appeared on the active roster this season, nearly half of them have been placed on the injury list at some point.
"I've worked a lot with Brandon Bolden over the years. I've worked with James White since he got here," Brady said. "Brandon LaFell's been a starting receiver for a while now so he's gotten a lot of action. I'm still working with Keyshawn [Martin] and Mike Williams trying to get as many throws as you can because this game is a game of attrition and this is when you start to see what your team is all about."
Martin and wide receiver Julian Edelman are both listed on the injury report this week, but both players are practicing on a limited basis.
Chandler attributes his sack total to his teammates
As the 2015 NFL season enters its 10th week, Patriots fourth-year linebacker Chandler Jones leads the league in sacks with 9½. That's two away from the career-high he set in 2013, and 9½ away from breaking the franchise record that Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett set in 1984. Jones is having what can be described as a career year, but he is quick to credit his success to his teammates.
"Everyone is just doing their job," said Chandler on Monday. "A lot of times guys get sacks because a certain player might flush a quarterback into you and you might be the lucky guy who gets the free play to run in and sack the quarterback. So for the most part, sacks are 110-percent team effort."
Head coach Bill Belichick agreed while speaking to the media during a conference call on Tuesday.
"It's usually more of that situation that is more common, to have guys whose production in the play is a function of what somebody else is doing in the play -- really team defense," said Belichick. "Now that being said, the closer you are to the ball more often, the more chances you're going to have to make some plays. And I'd say Chandler has definitely done that."
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He's also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women's college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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