Most of the Patriots’ players and coaches were probably upset to learn that Ty Warren will miss the entire 2010 season with a torn hip that requires surgery. Everyone, of course, except the marginal players who are fighting for roster spots on the already-thin defensive line.

While it seems like Warren is doing what he needs to do to be a healthy player down the line, his absence will hurt the Patriots in a big way. Aside from Vince Wilfork, the Patriots don’t have a ton of proven guys to work in the trenches. Mike Wright‘s made some big plays in the past, but it’s unclear if he can handle a starter’s responsibility. The rest of the pack includes Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Damione Lewis, Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace. Translation: The Patriots may be in trouble.

With Warren’s injury news, though, came the return of linebacker Derrick Burgess. While Burgess wasn’t spectacular last year (35 tackles, five sacks), he is at the very least a veteran presence in a linebacking corps sorely lacking in that department. Jerod Mayo is the best of the crop, while Tully Banta-Cain has Super Bowl experience, but there’s no shortage of uncertainty with the rest of the group. Gary Guyton will be asked to do more than he ever has before, while Brandon Spikes, Tyrone McKenzie and Jermaine Cunningham have yet to play a down in the NFL.

For the first time in what feels like a long time, the defensive backfield seems to be the least of Bill Belichick‘s worries. There’s a surplus of young, speedy, athletic players at the corner and safety positions, complemented with some solid veterans. Of course, the team will still be asking a lot of rookie Devin McCourty and second-year corner Darius Butler, and second-year safety Patrick Chung will need to make some major strides in order for the defense to be formidable.

As it stands right now, it’d be hard to call the Pats’ defense championship-caliber. It’s actually hard to say theirs is the best in their own division. But it’s still early, and it’s hard to imagine the Patriots won’t make an
effort to at least add one player before the season kicks off on Sept.

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