Defensive lineman Ron Brace struggled mightily through training camp in 2010, as he had a difficult time staying on the field due to injuries and appeared to be on the wrong side of the roster bubble.
Brace, a 2009 second-round draft pick, rebounded late in camp and used that momentum to have a pretty good second season, but it was cut short due to an elbow injury. If he continues to display improvement this summer, he'll be in good shape, but he must also prove that he can stay injury-free.
Brace, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright, Marcus Stroud, Brandon Deaderick, Eric Moore, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor and Kade Weston will be among the defensive linemen battling for about seven spots.
Why He'll Make the Team
Brace ranked third among Patriots defensive linemen in 2010 with 28 total tackles, and he was second with 19 solo stops. His signature play came on a fourth-and-goal against the Vikings, when he plunged through the line to stuff running back Adrian Peterson in the backfield, and he showed the power that matched his 6-foot-3, 330-pound frame. Brace has talent, and he can be a starting-caliber player when he performs with confidence and a mean streak.
Why He Might Not Make the Team
Brace couldn't pass his preliminary physical at the start of last training camp, and he was hampered by an early ankle injury. He also suffered a concussion and a season-ending elbow injury late in the year, though he said last month it's back to full strength. The Patriots will take an all-hands-on-deck approach with their defensive line this season, so Brace must prove his career path is still on the incline.
Brace should make the team, and he would really have to slide off the depth chart in the next month for a lesser fate. At this point, he should be expected to compete for starting reps at defensive end, and he's also able to play defensive tackle in sub packages or when Wilfork moves outside. Brace has the talent and versatility to be an asset for the Patriots' defensive line in 2011, but his injury history is still a concern.
Every day through Aug. 1, Jeff Howe will spotlight one player who could potentially be on the Patriots' roster bubble.
Wednesday, July 20: Running back Kevin Faulk
Friday, July 22: Cornerback Darius Butler