What a rush
Warren’s two-sack performance vs. Jets will be memorable
FOXBOROUGH — Gerard Warren had difficulty jogging his memory.
The Patriots veteran defensive lineman, who was signed as a free agent April 24, couldn’t pinpoint the date of his first multi-sack game in the NFL.
“It was like ’04 in Denver, I think, or something like that,’’ Warren said.
Then he backtracked.
“Maybe ’03 in Denver,’’ he said. “I forget now.’’
Who could blame him? When he recorded that milestone with two sacks against the Broncos on Dec. 14, 2003, Warren was in his third year in the NFL after the Browns drafted him in the first round (third overall) in 2001.
Three years removed from the University of Florida, where he had 9 1/2 sacks in 35 career games, Warren was hoping to have many such days as that one in Denver.
Now, in his 10th year in the league and on his fourth team — after stops in Cleveland (2001-04), Denver (2005-06), and Oakland (2007-09) — Warren couldn’t be blamed for being unable to recall his first multi-sack game after recording his second last Sunday in the Patriots’ 28-14 loss to the Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium. It had been that long ago.
Talk about your seven-year itch.
“Such a gap,’’ said Warren, who had two sacks of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “You look forward to those days and you hope to have many more.’’
But, such a gap, indeed.
A two-gap end in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme, the 6-foot-4-inch, 325-pound Warren was brought aboard to add a veteran presence to a defensive front that had seen the departure of Jarvis Green (signed as a free agent by Denver, then released) and then experienced the loss of Ty Warren (on injured reserve with a hip injury).
Gerard Warren was thrust into an expanded role to help plug the gap left by Ty Warren.
“I just came in and worked hard and tried to make this team,’’ Gerard said. “That was my main goal and focus when I first got here: find a way to contribute. I guess with my size, I figured I could play at one of the end spots.’’
But in a starting role?
“Everybody sees themselves in a starting role,’’ Warren said. “I just wanted to come in and earn my rights.’’
He did that and more, earning the respect of his fellow linemen with the two sacks for 16 yards against the Jets, which was something of a rarity for a two-gapping lineman in Bill Belichick’s defense.
“That’s tough,’’ said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “That’s pretty tough. Gerard did it and that was pretty exciting, because I remember our numbers from last year were kind of down, from a defensive line standpoint and as a defensive unit, with sacks and pressures. So he can contribute.’’
But it took some adjustment for Warren, who was accustomed to playing in a 4-3 scheme in Oakland.
“It was like starting over new from a 4-3 penetrating to a 3-4 two-gapping with a lot of technique,’’ Warren said. “In the 4-3, you can eliminate some technique by getting off the ball and penetrating into the backfield. But in a 3-4 concept, you’ve got to be technique-sound and be able to two-gap a player across the board.
“It does require you to take on two or more players sometimes, but that’s part of the defense. It’s part of the job.’’
Said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, “I think he’s doing a great job for us. He’s creating pressure, he’s doing good against the run.
“He’s a great addition to our defense, and right now we’ve got to hope that everybody plays at a high level and that we’re not looking to one guy to make plays.’’
Already Warren is responsible for half the Patriots’ four sacks this season. Banta-Cain, who led the team a year ago with a career-high 10 sacks, has 1 1/2.
“When you get to the quarterback, it gives you the confidence that you can get there again,’’ said Banta-Cain, who rang up three sacks (all in the fourth quarter) on Dec. 20, 2009, in Buffalo to help the Patriots preserve a 17-10 victory over the Bills, this week’s opponent.
“Obviously, last year, with me getting three sacks, that was a big confidence booster for me, but I think it was because I got a sack earlier in the game,’’ Banta-Cain said. “Once you get one, you feel another one coming.’’
Against the lowly Bills, who have allowed seven sacks in two losses to start the season, the Patriots might experience that rushing sensation again. Certainly, Warren is hoping that will be the case, only this time that it won’t come with a bad aftertaste.
“Yeah, it was kind of bittersweet,’’ Warren said, referring to the loss. “The ultimate goal, the reason why we play the game, is to get the win.’’
The other goal: To get the quarterback, no matter if Warren has to take on more than one offensive linemen to do so.
“That’s what defensive linemen are called upon to do: stop the run and rush the quarterback,’’ Warren said. “You just got to go out and get him.’’
Perhaps Warren’s next multi-sack game won’t require as long a wait or be as taxing to his memory.
“Here we are in Year 10 and hopefully we can add many more,’’ he said.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.