In a piece now posted on NFL.com, Adam Schein shares his viewpoint on the 10 most indispensable defensive players in the NFL, and there is one Patriot on the list -- Vince Wilfork.
Entering his 10th NFL season, Wilfork lands at the No. 7 spot.
"At age 31, he's still elite. He got my vote last year for first team All-Pro at defensive tackle [along with Geno Atkins]," Schein writes. "Wilfork is a pro's pro, consistently fulfilling his duty of clogging the middle. Wilfork is a leader, a true Bill Belichick guy. He can play [and dominate] in multiple fronts. The Patriots have many issues/questions on defense, and they would be magnified without Wilfork."
Wilfork's place on the list is well deserved from this perspective, and one aspect of his career that stands out is how he's evolved from more of a two-down player to a three-down option in 2010. In years eight and nine of his career, he has logged more snaps than ever before.
Check out the regular-season snaps played over the last four years for context:
2012: 81.3 percent
2011: 86.8 percent
2010: 69.8 percent
2009: 51.8 percent
One question to consider for 2013 is if keeping Wilfork at such a high snap-count total is a good idea -- both for him and the team. Wilfork has shown no signs of slowing down, but might it preserve another year of his career if the numbers were closer to around 75 percent?
The Patriots trimmed some of their defensive tackle depth by releasing Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, so if the club is thinking along those lines, it highlights the importance of players such as Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead, Marcus Forston and Co. making notable contributions. Outside of Wilfork, the defensive tackle position has almost completely changed in 2013.
To read Schein's piece, CLICK HERE.