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Ten Patriots for 2009: No. 5, NT Vince Wilfork

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Vince Wilfork is a large man.  Like 325 lbs large.  If you embark on the pilgrimage to Patriot Place and stand on Vince's scale, you can listen to him chastise you about what a lightweight you are.  But don't let all that "heft" fool you - Vince is pretty strong and in shape for a big man.  I don't think he's first call for swimsuit calendars, but I'm just saying.  So, why is Vince so key to this team?

As most every Patriots fan knows by now, the New England Patriots play a base 3-4 defense.  Need to brush up?  I'll wait...cue "Jeopardy" music...cool.  Defensive lineman in a 3-4 are responsible for jamming the offensive line.  The defensive ends rarely rush, leaving that to the outside linebackers.  Afterall, there IS four of those linebacker types.  DL's in a 3-4 tend to be somewhat larger than their counterparts in a base 4-3 or Cover-2 style D.  One of the toughest jobs in this alignment is that of nose tackle.  With three DL's typically covering five offensive linemen, a nose tackle can, on many occasions, be responsible for BOTH gaps around the center.  Big, excellent use of hands - all very important for the man in the middle.

With one year left in his contract, Vince Wilfork began working the issue.  A "holdout" at the beginning of OTA's (Organized Team Activities), Wilfork was viewed as firing the proverbial shot across the bow.  Maybe.  Could it also be said he's giving the Patriots organization a year to work this out?  Let's not forget the Patriots fired their own shot across the bow by picking up three defensive linemen, Ron Brace in particular.

Vince has said he is not seeking Albert Haynseworth money.  He knows Kraft would cut him loose.  It's simply not the Patriot way to overpay for ANYONE.  What he does want is, in his own words, a "comfortable contract".  Shouldn't Wilfork be taken care of?  Hasn't he proven himself?  3-4 nose tackles aren't falling off of trees, especially talented ones.  They're a bit like 4-3 pass rushing defensive ends (Julius Peppers) - a very rare breed.

So I ask you sports fans, Isn't it time for Wilfork to cash in a bit?  Doesn't he deserve it?  Picture the defensive line without him before you answer.