Wilfork enjoying another standout season

Wilfork enjoying another standout season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) His numbers don't leap off the page. They never do.

Yet as he has done throughout his entire nine-year career in New England, Vince Wilfork is leaving an unmistakable imprint all over the Patriots this season.

The only defensive player still on the roster from any of New England's championship teams is once again living up to the billing as one of the best nose tackles in the league. Wilfork is a stalwart force in the center of the Patriots' defensive line who's been instrumental in their much-improved rushing defense.

``I could care less about stats,'' Wilfork said earlier in the year. ``The only stat I care about is the W. We win, and I'm happy. We lose, and I'm not.''

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork wasn't too jolly following New England's 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Monday night that snapped the Patriots' seven-game winning streak.

After back-to-back games against two of the top teams in the league - the first a possible AFC championship preview against the Houston Texans and last week's showdown a potential Super Bowl matchup - New England travels to Jacksonville to face the struggling Jaguars.

And after playing two teams that have combined for 22 victories, Wilfork isn't about to look past 2-12 Jacksonville.

The Jaguars, like every other team on New England's schedule, likely will find it impossible to overlook Wilfork.

``A lot of people might look at their record, but you can just tell, they just line up and they play football. They're old school,'' Wilfork said. ``They line up and they try to do things right and you can just tell, when they do the things right, they move the ball, they make plays.

``It's going to be challenging for us.''

Attempting to block Wilfork is always a tall order.

Just ask Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, whose job is to help handle Wilfork each and every practice.

``Going up against (a guy) like that, you've got to play your best football. He's a tough player to defend,'' McDonald said. ``He's a great football player. He's a good leader. He's a guy that's been around the system for a long time and he does a lot of things well.

``He's a hell of a football player.''

When the stage is biggest, Wilfork seems to shine the most. Take two weeks ago, for example.

The mammoth man in the middle was credited with four tackles, one for a loss, a sack, one pass deflection and a forced fumble, igniting a stunning blowout of the first-place Texans in front of a national television audience.

He also was almost single-handedly responsible for bottling up running back Arian Foster, who for the third straight season has eclipsed 1,200 yards but managed just 46 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots.

Wilfork didn't even need to be standing on his large feet to make one of the more memorable tackles of his season, either. On the second offensive play of the game, Wilfork was blocked to the ground, but still managed to clamp his massive mitts around Foster's shin, dragging him down for a 1-yard loss.

``He's a unique player,'' McDonald said.

Wilfork by no means is your average pass rusher, barreling down the middle rather than from the side, and has totaled fewer sacks in his career (15) than some players have this season alone.

But then again, nothing about the four-time Pro Bowler is typical.

The surprisingly mobile veteran is enjoying a standout season for New England with 42 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, a pair of sacks and six passes defended.

``The athletic ability he has and the size he has is very rare, and just his passion for the game,'' McDonald marveled. ``Guys that have been around the league a long time like that and still have amazing passion and work as hard as he does, he's going to be successful.''

The offensive line also is benefiting from his presence.

``Going up against a guy like that . that rare athletic ability and size, the power he has, the quickness, it's definitely going to make you better,'' McDonald said. ``He's going to make everybody around him better, too.''

Wilfork is a major reason the Patriots have forced a turnover in 25 straight games and lead the league in turnover differential at plus-22, seven more than second-ranked Houston.

``That's one of the things that we do. That's one of our goals. That's one of the things that we work very hard toward. And it's paying off for us this year,'' Wilfork said. ``Hopefully we can continue to get our offense the ball. There's no other offense I would want to get the ball than inside (quarterback Tom Brady's) hands. The more we get our offense the opportunity with the ball, the better we'll be as a team, and we understand that.

``Our goal is to go out and create negative plays and create turnovers and give our offense the ball back.''


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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

When: 5:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Flyers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Flyers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-23-7) take on the Flyers (36-25-11) Sunday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.


The Capitals-Flyers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

4:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
4:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
5:00 p.m. — Capitals at Flyers
7:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
8:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
9:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.