Just like he is in that picture, Vince Wilfork will be front and center for the Patriots defensive line this season. Richard Seymour’s gone. Ty Warren’s out for the year. And at positions where depth is paramount, New England looks, on the surface, to be pretty thin.
“Changes happen all the time around sports, not just football,” Wilfork said. “Around sports, every year is different. So this year’s different. I don’t have Seymour. I don’t have Ty right now. It’s going to be different. Nothing is going to be easy. [The players here] know exactly what they need to do to play on this team. We have 100 percent faith in these guys.”
Last year, losing Seymour caused a trickle-down effect depth-wise, forcing the Patriots to shorten their rotation. Warren and Wilfork were carrying a heavy load, wound up getting hurt late in the year, and the wear-and-tear became apparent in the playoff loss to Baltimore.
That’s why the Patriots’ ability to rotate five or six linemen might be essential in making up for the absence of Warren and Seymour, using fresh legs to cover up. New England lists, left-to-right, Gerard Warren, Wilfork, and Mike Wright as starters on the unofficial depth chart, with Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, and Damione Lewis behind them, respectively.
Is that good enough? Well, the Patriots should find out in a hurry. They face four of the Top 9 rushing offenses in the league within their first five games, and also get impressive looking rookie Ryan Mathews and former NFL rushing champ Adrian Peterson before October’s out.