The most unstable position on the New England Patriots' roster continues to be... well... unstable. Today, the Patriots announced that defensive end Mike Wright had been placed on injured reserve with a head/neck injury that had kept him out of action since week eleven against the Colts.
Although the Patriots have played well without Wright in the lineup, there's no question that they're better with him in it. Wright, despite playing just over ten games in 2010, was the team's leader in sacks, with 5.5 coming in the six weeks prior to going down with injury. He's also the Patriots' best pass rushing defensive lineman. He is a starter in the base 3-4, and is the team's top interior rusher in sub-packages.
With Wright out for good, the Patriots have lifted the team-imposed suspension on defensive end Brandon Deaderick, according to numerous reports. Deaderick was suspended by the team on Monday for unspecified reasons, and will reportedly return for this Monday's practice. While Deaderick isn't really a top option for sub-packages, in his time starting this season, he was pretty reliable in the base 3-4. He holds up adequately against double teams and against the run, and has a good enough motor and hand usage to push the pocket as a pass rusher.
Deaderick, if he can stay focused, should see some time in the base 3-4 as a right defensive end, with Wilfork/Warren at nose/left end. While Deaderick will probably see some time, expect to see a lot of Wilfork-Love-Warren line-ups in the base 3-4.
All along, I expected the likes of Mike Wright and Ron Brace to be healthy come playoff time. With them out, the defensive line looks a little bit shaky, and a lot of weight will go to players such as the returning Brandon Spikes, to make an impact in stuffing the run.