After 11 years with the New England Patriots, 33-year-old Vince Wilfork is now a member of the Houston Texans, prominently featured on the hit show "Hard Knocks." The two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler, Wilfork's productivity on the defense was a huge asset to the Patriots. And, by huge, I mean he is 6'2" and weighs in at 325 pounds.
How will the Patriots fare without Wilfork on the field?
In 2014 he totaled 47 tackles and one interception, continuing a track record of excellence that started in 2004 when the Patriots drafted him in the first round. While the Texans will surely benefit from Wilfork's presence, the Patriots will definitely notice the Wilfork-sized hole on their defensive line.
Beyond his career total 351 tackles and 16 sacks, the former team captain had an impact beyond his stats. He brings to the field durability, agility, vision, a threat against both the pass and the run, and unusual athleticism for his size; The Steelers are surely relieved they do not have to face off against him on Thursday in their season opener in Foxboro.
Without Wilfork, the Patriots run defense will suffer, which is good news for DeAngelo Williams who is filling in for Le'Veon Bell who is serving a two-game suspension. Also, the Steelers offensive line, which is missing injured Maurkice Pouncey at center, has a better chance of holding up since one of Wilfork's many talents was collapsing the pocket on passing downs.
Sealver Siliga, Wilfork's back up last season, will be tasked with filling the massive void left by his teammate. While Siliga credits his development, in part, to Wilfork, he has not seen much playing time, having bounced around the league and missed playing time in 2014 due to a foot injury that required surgery. The Patriots will also be counting on Malcom Brown and Dominique Easley, a former first-round pick.
Facing off against unproven talent, the Steelers offense should have an easier time. This is not the top-10 rushing defense of last season. With a weak secondary and without Wilkfork, the Patriots could have an even more difficult time stopping Ben Roethlisberger and his arsenal of offensive weapons.