New England Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich coming through with “big plays” at new spot

10/14/12 in NFL   |   BrianMaddock   |   1429 respect

The New England Patriots could be onto something with the full-time change in position of former linebacker Rob Ninkovich to defensive end this season. Granted the move didn’t appear to be paying off in the initial few games. But now that he’s gotten used to it, Rob Ninkovich has tuned up some big numbers in the last two weeks.
“I knew I was capable of making some big plays…The first couple weeks I didn’t feel that I was playing my style, the way I would like to play,” said Rob Ninkivich. “The last couple weeks, I felt like I’ve been doing some things.”
Rob Ninkovich produced six tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles in the New England Patriots’ 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos last Sunday. The week before that, New England Patriots stole another win over the Buffalo Bills, in which Rob Ninkovich had five tackles, one sack as well as a forced fumble.
“As a defensive end, you’re not going to get the big number of tackles that some linebackers do because obviously you’re in a different spot,” said Rob Ninkovich, “ and you’re not always having the ball (funneled) to you every time.”
Until this season, Rob Ninkovich was listed as a linebacker with the New England Patriots. However, Rob Ninkovich played defensive end at Purdue and has been previously deployed at that role by the New England Patriots over the last couple of years. He’s been used as an edge rusher and is now a key piece in the New England Patriots’ 4-3 defense formation this season.
Rob Ninkovich will again play defensive end when the New England Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
“Being able to adjust to coming up when it’s a run and dropping when it’s a pass, and then you have play-action,” Rob Ninkovich highlighted the difference of reading running-pass as a linebacker. “(As a defensive end), you’re going in one direction, you’re going forward.”
In fact, in New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s scheme of defense, players in the secondary can see themselves playing a variety of positions. The New England Patriots’ offensive line is also known to be flexible upon rotations or in situation of injuries.
“Ninkovich is one of those guys who we’ve moved around a lot,” said New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. “In a Bill Belichick defense, you never know what position you’re going to be in, so it’s good to know multiple positions… (So) he’s done a very good job doing his role.”
Rob Ninkovich forms a formidable edge-rushing pair with rookie Chandler Jones, who’s got three sacks and two forced fumbles so far in the season. The duo has kept mixing up things with Rob Ninkovich lining up on the left defensive end and Chandler Jones on the right in the beginning of the season, but they’ve switched places over the past few weeks.
“Moving around helps both of us out, generates some pressure changing it up,” stated Rob Ninkovich, “two different styles of rusher, me and Chandler.”
So far, Bill Belichick has confidence in the pass-rushing duo; especially in the seven-year veteran Rob Ninkovich’s athleticism, steadiness and versatility.
“He’s an instinctive player, uses his hands well,” added Bill Belichick, “has a good feel for the ball and situations, anticipates things well.”
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