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Patriots' defensive snaps: 2014 season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at snaps played by Patriots skill-position players in the 2014 regular season (penalties included):

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Vince Wilfork -- 810 of 1,096 (73.9 percent)

Chris Jones -- 499 of 1,096 (45.5 percent)

Dominique Easley -- 270 of 1,096 (24.6 percent)

Sealver Siliga -- 239 of 1,096 (21.8 percent)

Alan Branch -- 160 of 1,096 (14.6 percent)

Casey Walker -- 160 of 1,096 (14.6 percent)

Joe Vellano -- 78 of 1,096 (6.8 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: Coming back from a ruptured Achilles that limited him to four games in 2013, Wilfork entered this season with some questioning about how he's recovered. He deserves all the credit coming to him for what he accomplished. That's a tough injury to come back from, especially for a player who tips the scales around 325 pounds. He is in position to cash in on almost all of his incentives and the next question to ask, which is better served after the playoffs, is if the team will have any reservations about picking up his $4 million roster bonus at the start of the 2015 league year (which would pretty much commit them to a $3 million base salary in 2015). Wilfork has earned it from this perspective, both from an on-field and leadership perspective. ... Chris Jones is an unsung performer who is as tough as they come, a nice complement to the bigger-bodied Wilfork inside. Very consistent. He also showed up at end in certain game plans when the Patriots played some more base defense and wanted to go bigger up front. ... Easley remains a work in progress. It seems fair to say he didn't show the explosion as an interior sub-rusher that we expected to see, but how much of that was health related? His best contributions, from this viewpoint, came as an end in the base defense. ... Siliga, Branch and Walker all filled their roles well as big-bodied run-stuffers, with Siliga especially flashing late in the year upon his return from short-term injured reserve.

DEFENSIVE END

Rob Ninkovich -- 1,029 of 1,096 (93.9 percent)

Chandler Jones -- 573 of 1,096 (52.3 percent)

Akeem Ayers -- 386 of 1,096 (35.2 percent)

Zach Moore -- 94 of 1,096 (8.6 percent)

Michael Buchanan -- 23 of 1,096 (2.1 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: When considering that Ninkovich was a part-time player in the season-opener (35 of 74 snaps), his playing-time total shows how he quickly became a full-time player after that point, which was perhaps a recognition by the coaching staff of a flawed game-plan in Week 1. Ninkovich played all but 28 snaps in Weeks 2-17, getting a late two-snap breather in a blowout loss to the Chiefs, a late nine-snap breather in the blowout win over the Bears, and a late 17-snap breather in the season finale, when the Patriots' playoff positioning was already solidified. ... Chandler Jones missed six games with a hip injury, or his total would have been higher. ... Ayers is listed as a defensive end because his primary contributions to the team came as a sub-rushing end, and he filled in admirably for Jones in that role. ... Moore is a high-upside prospect who was moved around the line and built a solid foundation to grow from this year. ... Buchanan landed on injured reserve in early October and made his biggest mark on special teams.

LINEBACKER

Jamie Collins -- 928 of 1,096 (84.7 percent)

Dont'a Hightower -- 841 of 1,096 (76.7 percent)

Jerod Mayo -- 340 of 1,096 (31.0 percent)

Jonathan Casillas -- 155 of 1,094 (14.1 percent)

Deontae Skinner -- 103 of 1,096 (9.4 percent)

Darius Fleming -- 36 of 1,096 (3.3 percent)

Chris White -- 4 of 1,096 (0.4 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: Collins and Hightower showed notable growth in 2014 as the Patriots had a much smoother transition this year compared to 2013 when it came to filling the void of a second season-ending injury to Mayo. If the three team up next season, it could be the best linebacker trio in the NFL. The Patriots will likely approach Mayo about his contract (he's due $6.25 million in 2015), so that will be something to monitor. But similar to Wilfork, that's a post-playoffs issue. ... As for Hightower, it seemed like yesterday we were turning on one local sports-radio show around these parts and he was being called one of the worst picks of Bill Belichick's tenure. In some cases it's fair to judge a player after two seasons in those terms, but Hightower proved that was a false start in his case. ... With Collins, it's somewhat similar. He sort of blows up the theory that if you trade down, as the Patriots did to select him in the 2013 season round and pick up three additional picks in the process, that you're settling on lesser talent. ... Casillas was a shrewd in-season acquisition whose primary contributions came on special teams, but he also showed the ability to fill in and play meaningful snaps when called upon on defense.

CORNERBACK

Darrelle Revis -- 1,023 of 1,096 (93.3 percent)

Brandon Browner -- 582 of 1,096 (53.1 percent)

Logan Ryan -- 507 of 1,096 (46.3 percent)

Kyle Arrington -- 448 of 1,096 (40.9 percent)

Alfonzo Dennard -- 238 of 1,096 (21.7 percent)

Malcolm Butler -- 182 of 1,096 (16.6 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: Revis re-established himself as one of the best corners in the game. Durable, consistent and while often overlooked, he showed a willingness to be physical in run support. In coverage, his patience and anticipation have been a treat to watch. ... Browner didn't play the first six games of the season (four for suspension; two as he got his legs back) and he added a physical edge upon his return. ... Ryan is an inside-out option whom Bill Belichick still sees promise to develop (last part of Q&A). ... Arrington excelled as a pure slot option and valuable member of special-teams units. ... Dennard dipped on the depth chart as a pure outside option behind Revis and Browner, but even when he had the chance to play, he didn't state a strong enough case to get more time. ... Butler shows promise for the future.

SAFETY

Devin McCourty -- 1,007 of 1,096 (91.1 percent)

Patrick Chung -- 851 of 1,096 (77.6 percent)

Duron Harmon -- 277 of 1,096 (25.3 percent)

Tavon Wilson -- 182 of 1,096 (16.6 percent)

Nate Ebner -- 33 of 1,096 (3.0 percent)

Quick-hit thoughts: McCourty is a steadying presence who comes up on free agency at a time when his value is high. ... Chung was the surprise of the group, re-emerging after his initial stint with the team (2009-2012), and a year in Philadelphia, ended in disappointment. He's a good comeback story. ... Harmon added more of a coverage presence in dime and certain nickel packages, and Wilson came on a bit late this season as more of an in-the-box safety like Chung.