This injury is a bit crushing for Denver, who held Pittsburgh to a collective 76 yards on the ground. At this time last year, Denver had one of the most abysmal run defenses in the league. Although Pittsburgh doesn't quite have a star running back, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are hard runners, and the Denver defense did a good job keeping them intact.
Warren was part of a four-man rotation at defensive tackle, along with Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, and Mitch Unrein.
Warren, who is 6'5", 300 lbs, was one of the most veteran members of a defensive line that features rookie Derek Wolfe in the left end slot and Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil in the right end slot. Wolfe, who looked brilliant in his NFL debut, assured the fans that pass-rush would, once again, not be a weakness of the Denver defense. Between Dumervil, Von Miller, and D.J. Williams, Denver has had one of the strongest pass-rushes in the game over the last couple seasons. Where they always struggled was up the middle, and Warren represented a big, experienced presence on the defensive line.
Vickerson, who has seven years of playing experience, now must be more of a leader of the defensive tackles. He will be joined by Bannan, who will start in place of Warren at the nose tackle spot.
Bannan should be a suitable fill-in, as his 312-pound frame combined with his above-average mobility can certainly clog up running lanes. He's also been playing for ten years. I'm more concerned about Vickerson having to play more downs. He's been an injury concern throughout his entire career and committed to unnecessary penalties on Sunday.
All that said, the two biggest questions on the defensive line going forward will be discipline and health. Can Vickerson stay healthy and avoid infractions? Can Bannan adjust to being a starter?
This all remains to be seen. One fact is that Denver was able to keep the Pittsburgh running game intact on Sunday, which in turn frustrated the Pittsburgh offense, forcing them to throw into tight coverage. Tracy Porter, Rahim Moore and the rest of the defensive secondary looked solid as a unit, and there's no question that the strength of the run defense was helping to motivate them to do their jobs well.
An NFL team builds off each other, and if one unit goes, the domino effect can be crippling.
Hopefully, for Denver, Vickerson and Bannan, along with their backups Unrein and Sealver Siliga, can adjust and keep the lane clogged for any oncoming traffic.
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