The Patriots defense has only gotten older in recent years, but the veteran group was able to propel the team to a berth in the Super Bowl game last season. A huge reason for the success of the defense was the incredible play of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork throughout the playoffs.
With a player like Wilfork, the Patriots were allowed flexibility throughout their playoff run. His quickness in the open field, substantial lower-body strength, and elite knowledge of offensive schemes anchored the Patriots defense last year.
For that, Wilfork was ranked the No. 6 defensive tackle on Bleacher Report's NFL 1,000. The list will rank players at their respective positions in a search for the 1,000 greatest players in the game today.
At the top of the list of the leagues' 64 best defensive tackles is Baltimore's Haloti Ngata. Sometimes in the shadow of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Ngata was a star in his own right in 2011, playing all 16 games and recording 64 tackles and five sacks.
Cincinnati's young tackle Geno Atkins and Oakland's veteran Richard Seymour round out the top three. Seymour, the former Patriot, and Atkins, in just his second season, have very different levels of experience but each players athleticism is top of the line.
Kevin Williams of the Vikings and the Jets' Sione Pouha make up the final pieces of the top five, respectively.
The Patriots' 11-year pro, Gerard Warren, slid onto the list at No. 52. His numbers have declined recently, as he missed four games in 2011. Kyle Love also made the list, ranking No. 32. Love played in all 16 games last season and recorded 33 tackles.
More NFL 1,000 Rankings: Quarterbacks I Fullbacks I Left Tackles I Right Tackles I Centers I Right Guards I Tight Ends I Left Guards I Punters I Kickers I Strong Safeties I Free Safeties I Cornerbacks I Defensive Ends