- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Ron Brace
POSITION: Defensive tackle
2011 STATS: 7 games (no starts), 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 50%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: The Patriots came out of the draft not having added any interior defensive lineman, which likely led to the re-signing of Gerard Warren days later. Defensive tackle remains one of the thinner positions on the roster, especially with Myron Pryor, who spent almost all of last season on injured reserve, continuing to rehab his injury during OTAs and minicamp this spring. Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork remain the big-bodied anchors of the defensive line, but keeping the 330-pound Brace on the roster would both give the former second-round pick another chance to emerge and provide depth at a position where size and strength are needed.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: If the Patriots had added more competition at defensive tackle this offseason, Brace's chances of making the roster would be dramatically reduced, but that still does not mean he has the inside track for a spot. Defensive sub packages are being used more, meaning that for possibly sixty percent or more of defensive snaps, defensive ends Brandon Deaderick and Jonathan Fanene will likely shift inside, filling interior roles along the defensive line. They would be slightly undersized to replace Wilfork or Love in a 'heavy' base package, but such a reserve role could be better filled by a player like undrafted rookie Marcus Forston or a veteran like Warren. The team could also look elsewhere for defensive tackle help during the preseason or after final cuts, potentially pushing Brace out of a job.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: DT Myron Pryor, DT Gerard Warren, DT Marcus Forston