2015 DRAFT GUIDE
Strong defense leads Patriots to 3-0 record

By HOWARD ULMAN - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-23 18:43

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Rob Ninkovich feared his career might be over before the New England Patriots gave him a chance in 2009.

He hurt his knee as a rookie three years earlier, was waived four times and had no backup plan if his NFL hopes ended.

But since joining the Patriots, he's been sacking quarterbacks and keeping runners from getting outside. He's a key to a veteran defense that has helped the Patriots to a 3-0 start while the offense has endured growing pains.

``We've played a lot of games together,'' the end said Monday. ``So (there's) communication, everyone being in the right spot and doing their job. Are there things that we need to work on? Sure.

``So throughout the year we're going to just continue to get better and work hard to be a great defense.''

Ten defensive starters are back from last season. The only newcomer is tackle Tommy Kelly, who spent his other nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders and has fit in well.

The Patriots are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for fewest points allowed (34). Seven came on a fumble return, so the defense has given up just three touchdowns. But they've played three of the NFL's weaker teams, the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The challenge is much tougher next Sunday night at Atlanta.

``Atlanta is a big challenge, but so was Tampa,'' coach Bill Belichick said.

Not nearly as big.

The Patriots haven't faced a quarterback as talented as Matt Ryan of the Falcons.

He was third in the NFL with a 68.1 completion percentage and sixth in passer rating after Sunday's games. The first three quarterbacks the Patriots faced were EJ Manuel (19th in rating), Geno Smith (31st) and Josh Freeman (33rd). All three have a completion percentage below 60 percent.

New England's offense made progress in the 23-3 win over the Buccaneers after two shaky games. Two rookie wide receivers started, with Kenbrell Thompkins catching two touchdown passes from Tom Brady, and Aaron Dobson making seven receptions.

Ninkovich knows what it's like to be struggling. He played just eight games in his first three seasons, with New Orleans and Miami. Each cut him twice before the Patriots signed him on Aug. 2, 2009.

He's developed so well that he just signed a three-year extension worth more than $15 million with $8.5 million guaranteed through 2016, his agent, Craig Domann said.

``Coming in, I was living out of a Rubbermaid bin just with clothes and (I'd) throw it in the back of my car and drive from city to city,'' Ninkovich said. ``It's nice to actually have a home for longer than a year.''

The lowest point came when the Saints cut him on July 30, 2009.

``Oh, it might be over for me,'' he thought. ``So then I came here, and it wasn't.''

Ninkovich played mostly on special teams in 2009, but in 2010, he began a starting streak that is now 42 games, including the postseason.

``I think that my skills fit this scheme well,'' he said. ``I can play (defensive) end, and I can play linebacker.''

Against Tampa Bay, he had five tackles and shared a sack. The Patriots allowed 323 yards but no touchdowns and stopped the Buccaneers four times on fourth down inside the New England 40-yard line.

``A fourth down stop is just like a turnover,'' said cornerback Aqib Talib, whose third interception of the season led to a field goal on the final play of the first half. ``We could have tackled a little better. We got good pressure on Freeman, though, so we played all right.''

Talib's arrival from Tampa Bay in a trade last Nov. 1 improved the defense at two spots. He upgraded the cornerback position with his ability to cover receivers one on one. And he allowed Devin McCourty to move to safety, a spot he's better suited for.

The Buccaneers converted just five of 19 attempts on third and fourth downs.

``That's all about attitude,'' McCourty said. ``Sometimes the offense is running a play they haven't run all day. It'll be something different and it's just one-on-one matchups across the board and somebody on defense making a play.''

Ninkovich has made plenty of them. In the past three seasons, he has 18 1/2 sacks and nine fumble recoveries. And he has plenty of time to get more.

``I thought it was over almost in 2009,'' he said. ``I had one chance to stick around to play in the NFL. That was five years ago now, which is surreal and kind of crazy.

``But I'm happy it happened.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Richard RodgersJul 1 05:03p

Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers could see more playing time in 2015, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Rodgers played 528 snaps, while fellow TE Andrew Quarless played [ More ]

Rob HouslerJun 30 03:13p

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler and Jim Dray could all end up taking over for TE Jordan Cameron, who is now with the Miami Dolphins. Head coach [ More ]

Sam BradfordJun 29 05:22p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) is expected to be in the final phase of his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament once training camp begins. Bradford's second [ More ]

Charles JohnsonJun 29 02:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson appears to have everything it takes to produce in the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. 'He's got great work ethic, and [ More ]

C.J. SpillerJun 28 09:02p

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller has a perfect skill-set for head coach Sean Payton's system, which relies on getting the ball to players in space, according Chris Wesseling [ More ]

Tony MoeakiJun 25 07:12p

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Moeaki will compete with TE Jacob Tamme for the Falcons' starting tight end job during training camp. QB Matt Ryan praised both tight ends for [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJun 25 03:52p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin's reported weight gain this offseason is being overblown, according to general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman expects Benjamin to be ready to go for training [ More ]

Antoine CasonJun 25 03:03a

Free-agent CB Antoine Cason (foot) will miss the 2015 season due to surgery he underwent on Tuesday, June 23. Cason (Ravens) did not specify what type of surgery he [ More ]

Marvin JonesJun 24 09:13p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle, foot) did not play in 2014 due to multiple foot and ankle issues, but he is healthy and was impressive in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.

Keith WenningJun 24 02:43p

Free-agent QB Keith Wenning (Ravens) signed with the Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday, June 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pierre GarconJun 24 02:23p

Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garcon could be featured more often in the passing game this season based on the offseason workouts. Garcon often lined up to the right of [ More ]

Martavis BryantJun 24 01:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are expected to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver job during training camp. Both players performed well during offseason workouts.

Peyton ManningJun 24 11:53a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was the subject of preliminary trade discussions with the Houston Texans, according to a source. The talks occurred before Manning restructured his deal and [ More ]

Rueben RandleJun 24 10:53a

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle was the best receiver on the field by a wide margin during spring practices, in the opinion of beat writer Jordan Ranaan. Randle [ More ]

Chris IvoryJun 24 10:43a

New York Jets RB Chris Ivory is listed as the starting running back entering training camp, according to beat writer Rich Cimini's unofficial depth chart. RB Bilal Powell is [ More ]

Devonta FreemanJun 23 10:22a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman enters training camp ahead of RB Tevin Coleman on the depth chart.

Joseph RandleJun 23 10:02a

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle appears to be the clear leader at running back, and it's his job to lose in training camp.

Ahmad BradshawJun 22 11:32p

Free-agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts) has been suspended one game for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. If he signs with a team he must sit out for the first week.

Terrelle PryorJun 22 04:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Terrelle Pryor was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns Monday, June 22, according to a source.

Fred DavisJun 19 06:02p

New England Patriots TE Fred Davis was released Friday, June 19.

Dennis PittaJun 19 02:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) was not medically cleared to practice in minicamp as he continues to recover from his second dislocated and fractured hip in as many [ More ]

Isaiah CrowellJun 19 01:22p

Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell could be the workhorse back if his ball security improves, according to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Devonta FreemanJun 19 01:12p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman will be used in a lot of different ways, including as a receiver, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'I knew Devonta had terrific [ More ]

Chris OgbonnayaJun 19 11:32a

Free-agent RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Giants) announced his retirement Friday, June 19.

John MoffittJun 18 11:02p

Free-agent OG John Moffitt unretired Wednesday, June 17, and cleared waivers Thursday, June 18. He is free to sign with a team of his choosing. The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 09:32p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor is going to give it a shot at playing wide receiver in the NFL. Some teams have already expressed an interest.

Allen RobinsonJun 18 09:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson was described as 'unbelievable' by QB Blake Bortles Thursday, June 18. 'He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 05:32p

Cincinnati Bengals QB Terrelle Pryor was waived Thursday, June 18.

Taylor ThompsonJun 18 05:32p

Tennesse Titans TE Taylor Thompson was waived Thursday, June 18.

Matthew MulliganJun 18 04:32p

Free-agent TE Matthew Mulligan (Titans) signed an undisclosed contract with the Buffalo Bills Thursday, June 18.

Carlton MitchellJun 18 04:22p

Free-agent WR Carlton Mitchell (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed contract with the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, June 18. WR Shane Wynn was waived.

Daniel ThomasJun 18 04:12p

Free-agent RB Daniel Thomas (Dolphins) signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Thursday, June 18. Financial terms were not disclosed.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group