Development of young d-linemen a key

In his "offseason reset" series for SportingNews.com, Vinnie Iyer focuses on the defensive line by ranking the top unrestricted free agents and then identifying the top needy teams at that position.

Iyer slots the Patriots fifth, writing, "Just looking at the near future, they will be fine with Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren for '11, so now they need to protect against their age and injuries by making their 3-4 rotation deeper."

This highlights the importance of some of the younger defensive linemen on the roster, players whose names have sometimes become lost in the shuffle over the last few months when analyzing the team's roster.

A few who come to mind:

Brandon Deaderick -- Seventh-round pick in 2010 had some unexpected contributions as a rookie (he started the team's playoff loss to the Jets), but was also suspended by the team at one point. If he becomes more reliable and more consistent, he could be an integral cog on the line.

Kyle Love -- Made the team as a rookie free agent in 2010 and showed up in a few games as a backup nose tackle and interior rusher in sub packages.

Darryl Richard -- A seventh-round pick in 2009, he has been with the team the last two years between the practice squad and injured reserve. Richard had some feelers from at least one other NFL team in the past, but has stayed with the Patriots.

Kade Weston -- Seventh-round pick in 2010 spent his rookie season on injured reserve. At 6-foot-5, 317 pounds coming out of Georgia, he was considered to have NFL-type size.