For this week's "Five questions with..." PFW associate editor Kevin Fishbain spoke with Patriots OLB Rob Ninkovich about the team's defense and what needs to improve.
PFW: Looking back at film from Denver, what did you notice about the run defense and what needs to be improved?
Ninkovich: On the first couple drives, they had some success running the ball on us. On defense, we had to make some adjustments to what they came out with in their game plan. We have to do a better job of starting fast and matching their energy. We have to be prepared for what the other team is going to come out and try to do.
PFW: In that game, you lost DE Andre Carter to a season-ending injury. How do you replace Carter?
Ninkovich: It's hard to replace a guy like Andre. Not only does he have great production on the field, but he is a real good guy to have in the locker room and a great leader for us. It's unfortunate that he had that injury happen to him. That's football, people get hurt and you have to have someone step in and keep playing. Whoever steps into that role has to do a good job.
PFW: Not a lot of fans know about Patrick Graham, your linebackers coach. What has he brought to the unit in his first year?
Ninkovich: Pat knows a lot about football. He stays on us pretty hard to be perfect. He's really pushing us every day to be better linebackers. I appreciate how he does that. He comes in every day and pushes us and gets us ready to play each and every team.
PFW: Back in September, you signed a contract extension. What did it mean for you to have that future locked up in New England?
Ninkovich: Early in the season, when they approached me to be here for a couple more years, I wanted to do that right away. You don't want to go through the season thinking that you may be a free agent or "will I be here or somewhere else." I'm happy to be here. I wanted to stay here. ... I'm very grateful. I knew coming here that all I needed was a chance. That's the thing about the NFL — it's about the right place at the right time. Coming here was just a good fit within the scheme and the style of play that I play with on the field. I fit with what Bill (Belichick) looks for in his outside linebackers. I'm happy he took the chance.
PFW: What has it been like this year for you switching between defensive end and linebacker?
Ninkovich: I enjoy having multiple roles. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm happy to go do it. At linebacker, you have more coverage. At defensive end, you get after the ball. There are good things about linebacker and defensive end. Every time I'm out there, I'm just happy to be out there.