For much of the last decade, three defensive linemen anchored the front of the Patriots' defense. Yet, after Richard Seymour's departure in 2009 and Ty Warren's season-long injury in 2010, Vince Wilfork was the lone wolf remaining in his pack last season.
Now, there's some speculation insisting Warren's hip injury could prevent him from making the team in 2011.
Warren, Wilfork, Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Marcus Stroud, Brandon Deaderick, Eric Moore, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor and Kade Weston will be among the defensive linemen battling for about seven spots.
Why He'll Make the Team
Warren has been a staple along the defensive line since he was taken in the first round of the 2003 draft, and although he has always been one of the more underrated players on the line, his willingness to play within the system has made him a valuable contributor. He knows the defense, and he is a positive influence in the locker room. And while he should still be able to play at a high level, he is one of the eight Patriots who remains on the roster from the team that won Super Bowl XXXIX — a number that could dwindle even further if Kevin Faulk retires or Matt Light signs elsewhere.
Why He Might Not Make the Team
It's obviously not easy to read Bill Belichick, but the head coach yielded a strong impression that he wasn't pleased with Warren's decision to skip 2010 offseason workouts to work toward his degree at Texas A&M. Then, that apparent displeasure was compounded by Warren's choice to opt for hip surgery at the start of last year's training camp. If Warren is indeed in Belichick's doghouse and the defensive lineman doesn't rebound adequately from hip surgery, he could be shipped out of Foxboro with three years remaining on his contract.
It's hard to imagine Warren wouldn't be one of the two or three best defensive linemen on the Patriots' roster, let alone one of the best seven, so it would still be shocking to see him hit the chopping block. Even though reports have hinted that Warren's job could be in jeopardy, that notion still seems to be a bit premature, and he should expect to be on the roster in 2011.
Every day through Aug. 1, Jeff Howe will spotlight one player who could potentially be on the Patriots' roster bubble.
Wednesday, July 20: Running back Kevin Faulk