Patriots deal with banged-up defensive line

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

Defensive end Ty Warren and nose tackle Vince Wilfork remained sidelined with injuries on Wednesday, causing more problems for a Patriots defensive line that hasn't shown much of a pass rush.

``If guys go down, another guy has to step in,'' Warren said. ``That's why everybody has to know every position up there on the field.''

Wilfork, the top vote-getter at nose tackle for the AFC in Pro Bowl voting, slammed his helmet to the ground as he left last Sunday's 20-10 win over the Carolina Panthers with a foot injury. He returned briefly in the third quarter but left again after a few plays.

Warren said playing nose tackle is what Wilfork ``was born to do.''

``And he does it well,'' said Warren, who went to the sidelines with an ankle injury soon after Wilfork left for the second time.

It's uncertain whether Wilfork will be ready for Sunday's game at Buffalo. With three games left in the regular season, New England (8-5) leads the AFC East by one game over the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets and three over the Bills.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the defensive line woes are just part of the long season.

``It's something that I think every team - most teams anyway, if not every team - goes through at this time of year,'' he said. ``You see a lot of players going on injured reserve and you see a lot of other players get signed to replace them, whether it's off the practice squad, which is usually where they come from, or wherever else they get signed, and it's definitely a concern.''

Titus Adams, signed from the practice squad last week, replaced Wilfork against Carolina and was in on two tackles. Mike Wright filled in for Warren. The other regular starter on the defensive line, end Jarvis Green, has played three games since missing three with a knee injury.

Rookies Myron Pryor and Ron Brace were inactive against the Panthers.

``The whole defensive line, whether it be Myron Pryor, whether it be Ron Brace, whether it be Mike Wright, I mean, all those guys learn multiple positions,'' Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

The Patriots have only 22 sacks this season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

One of the keys to stopping the Panthers was simplifying the defense, Belichick said.

``We felt like in the last couple games, maybe some of the execution might have been the result of not practicing things enough or not reacting quite quickly enough,'' he said. ``So we tried to simplify it a little bit so there would be a little less decision-making.''

But without Warren and Wilfork, the Patriots were running out of defensive linemen.

``I never want to see any of the starters at any position, or really anybody on the entire defense, get nicked up or walk off the field that way,'' Pees said. ``But hey, that's part of the game.''



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