FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots lost their second defensive end in nine days yesterday when Jermaine Cunningham was suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Now it’s Trevor Scott’s turn to get ready for more action.
“I don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as depth chart,” the former Oakland Raider, who has been used sparingly, said, “but I’ll definitely be preparing to have a more active role this week.”
First-round pick Chandler Jones was having a solid rookie season with six sacks before hurting his right ankle in the first quarter of a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18. He missed the rest of that game and all of last Thursday’s 49-19 rout of the New York Jets when Cunningham had a season-high six tackles in his first start of the year.
Now Cunningham’s gone and Jones may not be ready to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Scott has played only 110 snaps, 59 in the first nine games and 51 in the past two. He figures to play a lot more in Miami than his average this season of 10 per game.
But a defense that has just 23 sacks in 11 games seems to be taking in stride the loss of Cunningham, who has played well with three sacks after struggling last year, his second following the 2010 draft when the Patriots took him in the second round.
“Every year there’s always going to be some issue that you have to deal with. That’s just the way football goes,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who leads the Patriots with seven sacks. “So that’s another thing that we’ll just deal with.”
With a win at Miami, the Patriots (8-3) would clinch the AFC East title for the fourth straight season and ninth in the last 10. If they win, none of the other division teams could get more than nine victories and they would lock up the best record among the four teams in division games.