Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren lines up opposite perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro Richard Seymour. His left defensive end slot is next to heralded former University of Miami stud and budding nose tackle Vince Wilfork. And he works in front of playmaking linebackers like Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Rosevelt Colvin.
As such, even as a former first-round pick out of Texas A&M, standing at 6-5, 300 pounds, Warren can get lost in the New England defensive shuffle. While he's never missed a game in his three-plus year career and started every contest over the two-plus seasons, the soft-spoken and hard-working Warren often gets missed in the Patriots 3-4 front.
But if the first few games of 2006 are any indication, Warren is about to fight free from the shadow of his defensive mates and forge a name for himself on Bill Belichick's defense. Through three games Warren has 27 tackles, one sack, five quarterback hits, and one pass defensed, including a career-high 12 tackles in a Week 2 win over the Jets in New York.
Warren's continued improvement, something that's been a steady progress over his young career, combined with the versatility of the rest of his teammates along the New England front, has the Patriots front seven on the verge of dominating play early in '06. And Warren admits that he feels like he's taken his personal play to a new level.
"Yeah. I mean I worked on it the whole offseason and hard work seems to be paying off so far and I'd like to continue to do so," Warren said in his usual quietly confident manner.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has also seen Warren's play rise to a new level, although he too knows it's no overnight explosion.
"He has (taken it to a new level). Ty works hard. Ty works as hard as anybody," Belichick said. "He is a total team player. He's very conscious of what the team concept is and how he fits into that, and plays within that, so that everybody else can play within their role in the team concept. He's a good football player and he works hard and he really tries to do the job exactly the way you want it done. I don't think you could ask any more of a player than that. It's been that way for several years and I think that's why he's continued to improve."
And he's a big reason why the New England defense has improved each week this season and gotten off on the right foot in the AFC playoff race by holding opponents to just 17 points in each of the first three weeks. But Warren and the rest of the Patriots defense will face maybe its biggest test of the season this Sunday in Cincinnati when they take on the versatile, high-powered and down right scary offensive weapons of the undefeated Bengals.