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Monday, June 28, 2010
NFL context: Pats & defensive line

By Mike Reiss

Sixth in an ongoing series looking at each position on the Patriots roster and how it is viewed when compared to the rest of the NFL:

Starters: Ty Warren (LDE), Vince Wilfork (NT), Gerard Warren/Mike Wright (RDE)

Top backups: Gerard Warren/Mike Wright, Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Damione Lewis, Darryl Richard, Brandon Deaderick

NFL chatter: Wilfork is a top nose tackle who would have been in demand on the free-agent market because of his talent and the growing number of teams playing the 3-4 defense. He's the centerpiece of the line. Ty Warren is a solid complement to his left, while questions linger on whether the Patriots have the right parts to fill the void on the right side. Such questions are also being asked with other AFC teams (Who fills the void at right defensive end for the Jets?; Can Randy Starks transition to nose tackle for the Dolphins?; Do the Chargers have a long-term answer at nose tackle?).

Overall depth chart: Not as deep as the Patriots have been in the past, when they had Richard Seymour at right defensive end and Jarvis Green the top reserve. The development of younger linemen such as Brace and Pryor, who enter their second seasons, will ultimately determine the quality of depth along the line.

Final analysis: Tough to compare NFL defensive lines with significantly different responsibilities, as the Colts are a top group for what they do, while the Ravens are a top group for what they do. When looking at all NFL defensive lines, the Patriots unit looks like it falls into the pack of 5-10 teams after the top 3 that includes Baltimore, Indianapolis and Minnesota.

Other positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends; Offensive line