It’s easy to forget how important Vince Wilfork is to the New England Patriots. He ought to be considered the defensive MVP, willingly taking up multiple blockers to free up linebackers, playing multiple positions, and playing for more time than most would expect a man of his size to be able to endure. He’s also popular among fans simply for his attitude – and having two interceptions as a nosetackle doesn’t hurt.
However, the Patriots are in need of another defensive tackle. I don’t mean that Wilfork needs to be replaced – at least not yet (he does happen to be on the wrong side of 30). They need a penetrating 4-3 defensive tackle, one who can play in the three technique. Kyle Love looked promising considering where he was picked, but has slumped towards the end of the 2012 regular season and replaced in the starting lineup with Brandon Deaderick, who’s better suited to run-stuffing. Players like Geno Atkins and Gerald McCoy are difficult to find, but they’re essential to a team’s success. There was a very clear lack of pressure up the middle, which allowed quarterbacks to step up in the pocket and throw easily. Luckily, this is a deep draft for defensive tackles – with the news that excellent defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has a heart condition and won’t work out, there is a definite possibility that he might even drop all the way for the Patriots to pick him up. If he’s available, expect the Patriots to snatch him up – and expect a massive change in the way this defensive line operates.
You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.