Ty Warren isn't a team captain. He's not a household name or multiple Pro Bowler and All-Pro like defensive line teammate Richard Seymour. Never mind all that, he might just be the best defensive player in a New England uniform this season and as such should at least get some note for such honors.
Through the first 13 games of the season Warren ranked second on the Patriots with 90 tackles, while setting a career high with 6.5 sacks. He's also recorded two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Warren is currently the most consistent playmaker up front for a defense that remains one of the best in the league, despite Sunday's disappointing 21-0 loss in Miami.
And it's not bad production for a fourth-year guy playing in Seymour's immense shadow.
"I'm never satisfied," the soft-spoken Warren said recently. "I just got through watching film, and some things I'd like to have back."
According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, that attitude is part of what's led to Warren's breakout success in 2006.
"One of Ty's real strengths as a player is that when you give him something to work on, he really works at it, and that doesn't mean at the expense of what he does well," Belichick said. "Like, 'I'm not going to play the run, I'm just going to rush the passer.' It's not that. It's, 'When it's a pass, I'm going to utilize my pass rush techniques and when it's a run, I'm going to play my run techniques.' He's done a good job of trying to really focus and work on the areas that you ask him to improve in. It hasn't been a tradeoff. It's been a steady improvement."
The work ethic has put Warren at a different level this season. After three years of solid if unspectacular play, the 6-5, 300-pound defensive end has gone beyond the steady level in 2006.
"When you're trying to get something done, it's all attitude," Warren said. "Just to make something happen, whether it be rushing the passer or trying to stop the run or whatever it might have been, that's all it is, just wanting to get things done."
Whether Warren wants them or not, that desire has put him on the cusp of earning Pro Bowl or perhaps even All-Pro honors. Given the popularity contests or name recognition that such honors are often tied to, he likely is another year of dominant play away from those accolades. But it won't be his play that keeps him out of consideration.
While he's always been known as a solid run-stopper, Warren has added feared pass rusher to his resume this season. At times he's appeared to toy with his blockers while always pushing them back into the pocket. He's worked hard to become a three-down player, and Belichick has taken notice.
"I think that was a huge point of emphasis for Ty in the offseason this year and it's been all season long, about refining his pass rush techniques and utilizing his strengths as a pass rusher," Belichick said. "I think his pass rushing techniques have improved significantly. Not that his run techniques haven't, but I think they were something that came a little bit quicker to him."
Rather then accept the credit, Warren deflects it back to Belichick and the rest of the Patriots staff.
"The coaches teach me as a player the things I need to know," Warren said. "I love working out with the guys in here. I think people just respect guys that work. I want to be one of those guys. As long as I'm enjoying it, I'll be playing.
"I want to get as close to perfect as I can. You may never get there, but I'll always be trying."
Warren will keep that hope going this Sunday against the Texans at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are on the midst of a turbulent run toward the postseason that's dealt with inconsistent play and too many turnovers. But through it all Warren has been the most consistent playmaker on the New England defense, even if not too many people have heard about it.