Depth on the Patriots’ defensive line took a hit today, with the team placing rookie nose tackle Mike Wright on injured reserve. The team signed practice squad defensive lineman Santonio Thomas to fill Wright’s roster spot.
Wright was one of the surprise stories of 2005 training camp. A rookie free agent out of the University of Cincinnati, he made the 53-man roster as a backup to Vince Wilfork, playing one of the most important positions in the 3-4 defense. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Wright appeared in 13 games this season (no starts), with 16 tackles. He injured his ankle in last Sunday’s season finale against the Dolphins.
With Wright out and Thomas in, the Patriots now have Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Marquise Hill, Dan Klecko and Santonio Thomas on the defensive line.
The question is who would back up Wilfork at nose tackle. Warren played on the nose as a rookie in 2003, but has primarily been an end the last two seasons. Klecko has experience there, but lacks the size (5-11, 275) to be an every-down player at nose in the Patriots’ scheme. The Patriots tried Green there in training camp a few years back, but shifted him back to end. Thomas (6-4, 308) might also be a candidate.
The 24-year-old Thomas played at the University of Miami and was signed by the Patriots on April 30, 2005. He has been on the Patriots’ practice squad since Sept. 21.
On Nov. 11 this year, Patriots coach Bill Belichick commented on Thomas’s development.
“He’s come along OK. He got off to a real late start just in terms of his ability to get on the field. He missed a lot of training camp [due to injury], so you know, any time you miss all those practices in training camp, it’s hard to make them up during the season. That being said, I think he’s made good progress, he’s coming along. … I think he works hard, he’s a smart guy, and he’s definitely improved in understanding our defense and executing the techniques, but he has a ways to go.”