FOXBOROUGH — Only when pressed did Trevor Scott finally acknowledge that the game he had last Sunday against the Dolphins came at a good time for him, from a personal standpoint.
Scott began with a team-friendly answer when asked to describe his best game in his first year with the Patriots: five tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble in a 23-16 victory.
“The biggest thing is we won the game, that’s what we focused on all week, and we’re just looking forward now to the Texans Monday night. It’ll be a good challenge for us,” Scott said, referring to Houston’s visit to Gillette Stadium, a prime-time clash between two of the AFC’s top teams.
Honestly, though, wasn’t his effort in Miami exactly what the 28-year-old defensive end needed to see, since his first 11 games had Scott miss two with a hamstring injury and combine for just four tackles? For someone who arrives early and stays late most days, wasn’t the impressive individual stat line validation of the work he’s put in?
“It definitely felt good,” Scott said. “I’m looking to keep contributing.”
Scott took advantage of the opportunity he was given based on the unavailability of two other defensive ends: Chandler Jones, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and Jermaine Cunningham, given a four-game suspension Nov. 26 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. That created a hole, and gave Scott a clear indication that he’d be seeing the field more.
Playing in a season-high percentage of defensive snaps (50 of 62 plays), Scott showed why the Patriots were so interested in signing him in March after he spent four seasons with the Raiders. He had 13½ sacks with Oakland — 12 in his first two seasons — and, when healthy, displayed a consistent ability to rush the passer, something the Patriots have lacked.
Scott’s inability to find the field much this season has more to do with Jones’s emergence, so it wasn’t a stretch to assume that Scott’s snaps would increase with Jones and Cunningham out.
“I suspected that, but then again, we have so many guys in the rotation, you never really know,” Scott said. “You’ve just got to be ready whenever your number’s called.”
Justin Francis, Jake Bequette, and Brandon Deaderick also got more playing time on the defensive line against the Dolphins, but it was Scott making the biggest impact.
“Trevor had a couple of really nice plays and did a good job for us out there,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “We had a number of different guys playing in the front and all of them contributed in their own way, particularly some stuff that might not necessarily be seen in the individual statistics.”
Football is a numbers game, though, and Scott finally put up some that had been expected by many when he signed.
“He came in and he played well for us. It was next man in, he came in, he knew what to do, he knew the game plan,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. “Previously, he might not get a lot of reps, but he’s a professional, and I was happy to see him come in and make the plays that we needed, because you never know when your number will be called.
“You have to be ready, and he definitely showed last week he was ready. Finally got a chance, and he made it count.”
Scott signed a one-year deal, which means next season’s contract might be contingent on this season’s production. Has he felt any pressure?
“Yeah, that’s one of the things you always think about, but it’s in the back of my mind. The first thing on my mind is knowing what I need to do on the field, and that’s why I work hard every week, every day, staying mentally and physically focused,” Scott said. “You can only control what you can control: your film study, working hard on the field, off the field, in the weight room, and I’ve just been waiting for my time.”
Cunningham will be out at least three more games, but Jones returned to practice this week, so his return to the lineup could be fast approaching, perhaps as early as Monday. That might mean fewer snaps for Scott, but also a healthier, deeper, better defense for the Patriots.
“Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, I’m just going to do my best every time I get the opportunity to play,” Scott said. “You have to stay patient. You never know what can happen, it’s football, injuries can occur. I’m just looking to keep contributing as we move forward.”Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.