FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are three things that come to mind when analyzing defensive lineman Mike Wright landing on season-ending injured reserve and what it means for the Patriots' defensive line.
1. Wright's future. It wouldn't be a surprise if this is a career-ending situation for the seven-year veteran. He had a tough time with the after-effects of the 2010 concussion that sidelined him the final seven games, and then sustained another concussion in the 2011 season opener and didn't play again. From the perspective of a reporter who has covered Wright since his surprise emergence as a rookie free agent in 2005, something seemed amiss with him this year. He wasn't himself. Here's hoping he can find a better place, from a health and well-being perspective, in the future.
2. What's left on the d-line? With Wright joining Myron Pryor on season-ending injured reserve, the Patriots officially lose their top two interior rushers. Wright and Pryor factored most in sub packages, although the Patriots have already learned what it's like to be without them. Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Gerard Warren, Kyle Love and Shaun Ellis have all been tapped to fill that type interior rush role at times, but none have the same type of suddenness or quickness. Also, one concern as the season progresses is overloading them. When the 2011 campaign began, the idea was to rotate linemen to keep them fresh but the numbers are now dwindling. Wilfork, in particular, is playing more than he ever has in the past.
3. Don't forget about PUP players Brace and Deaderick. Starting next week, defensive linemen Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick -- both on the reserve/physically unable to perform list -- are eligible to start practicing. Both feel they are ready physically should they get the call. This is a good example of the solid roster management of Bill Belichick, who in this opinion, uses the PUP list to his advantage as well as any coach in the NFL. Brace and Deaderick were ends in the 3-4 defense, but in the four-man fronts the Patriots have been playing, they could fit at either left end or in an interior role. So there is some flexibility there. Brace and Deaderick don't have the quickness of Wright and Pryor, but they offer another option at a hard-to-fill position. Brace, in particular, played defensive tackle in a four-man front at Boston College so it will be interesting to see if the scheme change brings out the best in him.