FOXBOROUGH -- The starting defensive end position, vacated because of Jarvis Green's knee surgery, will be in capable hands Sunday. Mike Wright is a versatile, experienced lineman who has already started three games this year and leads the Patriots in sacks, with four.
And yet, the Patriots face a challenge trying to replace Green. He has played 295 snaps this year, more than any other defensive lineman. Their depth behind Wright, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren, is merely a pair of rookies, Myron Pryor and Ron Brace.
Brace especially will be counted on to take a step forward. A second-round choice, Brace has been inactive the past four weeks and has not played since Week 2 -- and he's played five snaps, making one tackle, all year long.
After a slow start to his career, this is the week Brace can validate the Patriots selecting him 40th overall out of Boston College. Against a physical, run-first offense like the the Dolphins, the Patriots are in for a demanding day. They'll need Brace to play and play well.
Coach Bill Belichick gave Brace a strong endorsement today.
“Ron works hard," Belichick said. "Ron has certainly improved a lot since the end of the preseason. He’s a big kid. He’s got good athletic ability. He’s got good playing strength. Like every young player, he needs technique work, reaction. He’s gotten better at playing different blocking combinations and different responsibilities that we have in our defense.
“It’s a tough situation for any rookie. At this point in the season, really he has to do a lot more thing than he had to do in September. We’re doing more, and our opponents are doing more.”