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One of the strong points of the Patriots 2008 season, the defense seemed to live and die by how much pressure the front seven – especially the front three – put on the opposing quarterback. Here are the grades for this season’s defensive line:
Richard Seymour: B
Thoughts: Seymour came back after an injury prone 2007 season and looked like his old self in training camp. His statistics were solid (32 solo tackles, eight sacks) and he had moments where we saw his incredible talent. I still think we could have seen more from the big man this year as he is one of the highest paid defensive ends in the NFL. I think a B grade pretty much sums up his efforts on the field in 2008.
Vince Wilfork: A
Thoughts: There’s no doubt Vince Wilfork is one of the top three defensive tackles in the NFL. His stats don’t put a value to his contributions as the Miami U grad consistently blocked the runway for running backs all season. His contract is up after the 2009 season and he’s indicated his desire for a long term deal and the Patriots should get it done quickly. In a 3-4 formation there aren’t many equals to Vince Wilfork.
Ty Warren: C+
Thoughts: Ty Warren had a breakout Pro Bowl season in 2006 and then came back to Earth in 2007. In 2008 he missed three games due to injury and didn’t provide much pressure on the quarterback. He finished the year with 32 solo tackles but just two sacks, and that’s just not good enough for a top tier defensive end. If he remains healthy he can provide solid service in the future but he had more sacks in 2006 (7.5) than the last two years combined (6.0) and may have peaked.
Jarvis Green: B+
Thoughts: Green filled in admirably in the absence of Seymour and Warren from the lineup and actually finished 2008 with the same amount of sacks as Warren. He would be a starter on many NFL teams and provides great backup support at the defensive end spot. One wonders if Warren fails to improve in 2009 we may see a lot more of Green at the other end spot.
Mike Wright: A-
Thoughts: Wright is another guy who is a solid backup but could see more action on another team. He finished with 2.5 sacks and 22 tackles, not back for a guy who is behind Vince Wilfork on the depth chart. Wright plays defensive tackle but in the typical Bill Belichick mold is versatile and can play anywhere on line. Guys like Wright and Jarvis Green are vital to have over the course of the season when you have to deal with injuries.
Overall defensive line grade: B+