Texans: Wilfork back home at nose tackle
Once former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was released, the Houston Texans seemed like a perfect fit given their needs at nose tackle and old New England connections in head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Wilfork has been an every-down player for the Patriots in recent years, playing a high percentage of their snaps while moving all around the defensive line, but with Houston’s depth up front, it looks like he’s primed for a return to nose tackle.
After years as more of an early-down player, Wilfork saw a major spike in playing time in 2011 as he played 87 percent of New England’s snaps, compared to only 70 percent in 2010. While he’s never been a great pass rusher, the Patriots kept him on the field on passing downs to help open things up for those around him. Last year, Wilfork played 73% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps on their Super Bowl run, grading at +10.1 against the run and -9.7 as a pass rusher.
Even with Wilfork’s versatility, many have pigeonholed him into the nose tackle category for a few years now. However, last season, he played the seventh-most snaps at 3-technique (420), a position usually reserved for more penetrating defensive tackles, while playing only 158 snaps at nose tackle (1- or 0-tech).
Expect that number to increase next season as Wilfork will man the middle of Houston’s defense and provide a strong run stopping presence. He may never be an 800-plus snap player for the rest of his career, but Wilfork is primed for a few more seasons of playing 400-600 snaps a year at nose tackle where he’s still difficult to move.