The already-underachieving New England Patriots defense took a big hit Monday, when it was reported that starting defensive tackle Alan Branch is being suspended by the league for failing a recent drug test. 

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the veteran defensive lineman is appealing the suspension. While an appeal process might be in place, it is expected that the Michigan product will have to sit out four games.

So how does this impeding suspension affect the defense?

Well it surely doesn't help matters for a unit that has struggled throughout the season to get off the field and has played some of its worst football as of late.

With no Branch in the mix, as of now, the already-thin interior of the defensive line is chalk full of young and somewhat unproven players.

Malcom Brown is in his second season and, while he hasn't been dominant, he is a former first round pick and has turned into a top level member of the line. After Brown, however, the team has two rookies on the roster.

Vincent Valentine, who was a third round selection in the 2016 draft, and Woodrow Hamilton, who went undrafted and started the season on the practice squad, have limited experience with just nine total games played between the two of them.

There is also the potential that the team might add Anthony Johnson, who has been on the active roster a few times already this season and is currently on the practice squad, to give the unit a little more depth. They also could look to use some of their edge type guys in a unique, inside role, like they did a bit last season with Jabaal Sheard. Of course, Sheard, who was left home by the team last week, will need to actually be back in the rotation for that to happen.

Regardless of what they decide to do, it is a problem that Branch will be out for a stretch. While they play to lesser opponents in the Jets and Rams, over the next two weeks, they finish up would is looking like a four-week gap without the big man against the Ravens and Broncos, who are both more legitimate opponents.