The New England Patriots face a tough challenge for the remainder of the season without defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the field. The “next man up” will be a team effort rather than a particular player as players will be shifted and plugged-in to reflect a fraction of the difference Wilfork makes. The Cincinnati Bengals are on a mission to improve their 2-2 record, and while they agree nobody can replace Wilfork, they’re cautious of a Wilfork-less defense.
As coach Bill Belichick mentioned before, the Bengals are an explosive team with a dynamic defense front, and Geno Atkins really stands out in that defensive front. However, coach Marvin Lewis doesn’t think the team has performed to expectations, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said, “Problem is right now we aren’t doing anything exceptionally well. We are not throwing the ball exceptionally well we aren’t running the ball exceptionally well. People say run the ball, well we will run the ball more when we get more than three yards. We got to do something good. We are a jack of all trades master of none right now.” Offensively, the Bengals are really struggling in finding their own identity. In part due to ranking ninth in the AFC Take-Aways / Give-Aways stats (9 turnovers) along with the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders with a -2 turnover differential ratio. Of those nine turnovers, Andy Dalton is responsible for four interceptions and two fumbles.
As the Bengals prepare to confront a Patriots defense without our main defensive front anchor, coach Lewis said of Wilfork while acknowledging of other players that will step up for the challenge.
“He has been the center point of that group for a long time. They obviously in their minds have planned, you always plan for the loss of a player, so they’re going to have the next guy step up and go with the addition of Tommy Kelly that they had in the offseason and they have the young players in there also that played when Vince was out and have been rotating in throughout the season. But, he is obviously a good player. I’m sure they have guys that are excited to get their opportunity.
Also, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis spoke on the toughness in replacing Wilfork; nevertheless, he recognizes he still will have to play hard as he said, “the young guys are doing a good job of coming in and doing their thing as well. They’re not Vince, but they come in and they’re not giving up plays and things like that, so they’re doing a good job of coming in and playing ball. Vince, him going down it’s hard to replace him, but the next guy has to step up, and that’s what you’re seeing from the young guys. The young guys are stepping up and playing ball.”
Sunday’s game will not be walk in the park for neither offense. The team with the least amount of turnovers shall succeed.