As is usually the case in every NFL city, injuries are starting to pile up in New England. Last week linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost for the season to a knee injury. This week reports indicate Chandler Jones could miss at least a month due to a hip injury.
Both are frontline players who are relied upon greatly on all three downs. Given the defense's struggles stopping the run so far in 2014 – the Patriots currently rank 24th in the league in run defense – losing two member of the front seven and a tough pill to swallow.
But the Patriots still have talented players available and they'll do what they can to contain Matt Forte and the Bears on Sunday. Vince Wilfork remains in the lineup up front, Rob Ninkovich, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins are all available as well and Bill Belichick will do his best to mix and match the rest of his cast to fill in the gaps.
Even with Mayo and Jones in the lineup the run defense was lacking. In fact Wilfork himself admitted that earlier this week when informing the media that he has taken the struggles personally as the leader of the group. With that in mind we wondered where the defense would get a lift moving forward and we arrived at this week's debate.
Our Samsonite Make Your Case question asks: Which member of the Patriots front seven needs to step up the most?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Collins is just now reaching a full season of NFL starts, so I understand that the second-round pick from a year ago is still quite young and inexperienced. But fair or not, I think he needs to step up and be a more consistent, productive factor on the Patriots front.
Sure he's been misused a bit playing on the inside early this season, but he's still one of the most physically gifted, versatile players on a front seven that's undermanned and lacking playmakers these days. Collins surely created unrealistic expectations for himself with a breakout performance last January. His numbers from early in the season – including an interception, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery – are decent. But decent isn't good enough with Mayo and Jones out of action.
Everyone agrees that Collins has great potential. The time is now for him to turn that potential into greater playmaking production. Time for the next man up. Time for Collins to shine if the banged up defense is going to make positive strides through the team's toughest stretch of games.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Wilfork has been solid in his return from a torn Achilles and he'll need to be even better with the defense needing some help. He's a proud player and his words this week told a story of a player knowing he needs to do more to help the team stop the run. If Big Vince is plugging the middle like he can things will fall into place around him.
Wilfork hasn't performed badly in the first half of the season but he's the most experienced and talented member of the front seven. He's also the leader of the group and his teammates will look to him to help them through this difficult time.
That means Wilfork will need to do even more if things are to improve, and that starts by clogging the middle and setting the tone for the youngsters around him. He's done it before and he's capable to doing it again.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.