One of the New England Patriots leaders on defense is Rob Ninkovich, who is yet another player on the Pats defense with plenty of intangibles and leadership qualities. Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork have greatly helped the myriad of newcomers to the defensive line, and there are especially a lot of young defensive ends on the Patriots roster ready for Rob Ninkovich to take under his wing. Ninkovich has been criticized in this space for being overrated as a pass rusher, but there is no doubt that Ninkovich is a great leader, run defender, and versatile player on this New England Patriots defense.
Rutgers product Justin Francis is a darkhorse for a breakout year in 2013 as a backup DE, because he showed flashes as a pass rusher last year (he still needs to be more consistent in that regard) and is solid against the run. Francis knows how valuable Ninkovich is and delivered high praise for Ninko’s character, via the Boston Herald, “He’s a great man. I just appreciate him just for taking the time out and raising — not as much raising, but that’s typically what it is — and grooming the younger guys, taking his time out and just helping us with whatever we need with him. He’s a class-A guy.”
Whenever I hear a ringing endorsement like this from player-to-player regarding somebody’s character, it always uplifts my spirits. Rob Ninkovich is a valuable member of this team for his work against the run and ability to be scheme versatile (DE/LB in the 4-3 or 3-4, so he can essentially play three or four positions), and he is also valuable due to his willingness to help others and be a true leader for this Patriots defense. I always hated how a few people criticized the Patriots defense for a lack of leadership coming into the offseason, because this team has plenty of leaders (Ninkovich, Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, and Kyle Arrington are people who I would call leaders).