FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots are in an interesting position for defensive line depth.
Up front, they have stalwarts in Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich, coupled with last year's top draft choice Chandler Jones and free agent signee Tommy Kelly.
That much is settled.
But behind those chosen four, the competition is at full throttle for the team's backup positions.
Over the course of the first seven practices, one of the 16 defensive linemen competing for a spot on the team has been Marcus Forston, a practice squad player last season who has been substituting for Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle. He's been getting significant repetitions in practice, a sign that he may stick with the team.
"I still got a long way to go," Forston said. "But I'm just trying to chop at it and do it the way the Patriots want it to be done."
A year on the practice squad with three game appearances is all Forston has to put on his resume. So for him, the last year has been about the learning process, growing as a player and professional.
"I learned so much going up against guys every day like Logan Mankins, [Ryan] Wendell and Dan Connolly," he said. "I'm learning from those guys and going against those guys, giving them a good look week in and week out. I felt like I got better. That was one of the best things to happen to me."
Luckily for Forston, Wilfork is also a great source of knowledge. Forston has been following in Wilfork's footsteps for some time, watching him play in his hometown at the University of Miami before becoming a Hurricane himself, and then signing on with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie last season.
Nowadays, Forston is either in Wilfork's ear or at his house, picking his brain, talking football nonstop.
"When you love the game, you never get tired of it," Forston said. "There's never too much information."
Forston, listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 305 pounds, is the beneficiary of Armond Armstead's absence. The team announced that Armstead had surgery to treat an infection and has missed all of training camp. He was supposed to come in and compete for the team's starting defensive tackle position opposite of Wilfork, pushing the snaps and repetitions down for everyone else, Forston included.
Now, Forston finds himself useful in different sub-packages for the team.
But despite this, his place on the team is not something that's easy for him to discuss.
"I don't know," he said of his prospects on making the roster. "I leave that to the coaches. I just come out here and try to do my job. And try to do it the way it's supposed to be done."