BY NICK ST. DENIS
The New England Patriots always preach the "next man up" mantra, but in the case of Vince Wilfork's absence, that's a tough one to sell.
Wilfork, the anchor of the Patriots' defense and one of the most consistent defensive tackles of the past decade, tore his Achilles Sunday night and is likely done for the season, according to Shalise Manza-Young of The Boston Globe.
Monday, Wilfork's teammates acknowledged his impact.
"Obviously, Vince is a huge asset for our team, not only on the field but off the field," linebacker Jerod Mayo said, via Patriots.com. "He’s a great leader, he demands double teams in the run game and he also coordinates some of the rushes in the pass game, so a great asset for this defense."
Guard Logan Mankins, who has faced Wilfork in practice for years, also gave his take.
"He takes on double teams so well. He just engulfs linemen," Mankins said. "In pass protection, he just pushes the pocket. He is always collapsing inside, and that helps the edge rush. So, he just does so many things for us, and does it so good."
New England will now lean on veteran Tommy Kelly and rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones to fill the void. As ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss noted Monday, Wilfork has been on the field for more than 80 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps the past two seasons.
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