Last Sunday in England, the Patriots used a substitution pattern at defensive tackle that would have been difficult to imagine before the season. Sixth-round pick Myron Pryor played 27 snaps. Second-round pick Ron Brace, apparently healthy, was inactive for the fourth straight week and did not play for the fifth straight week.
Pryor has been receiving more and more playing time, the snaps that Brace would have been expected to get during the early portion of the season. What happened? The obvious explanation is that Pryor has simply outperformed Brace.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said today that it’s not that simple. Pees claimed he is satisfied with the progression of both Pryor and Brace and their roles depend more on who the Patriots are playing and what they are trying to accomplish in a certain package than on their performance.
That came through when Pees was asked about Brace and Pryor. First, he was asked what Pryor had to do to find his way on to the field.
“Ron is working hard,” Pees said. “He’s learning the system. He’s doing a good job in there. It’s just been a matter of us trying to say who kind of fits the role that we need this week in this particular spot. It may not necessarily have anything to do with whether Ron has not done or has done well. It’s more a fact of, this guy kind of fits what we want there.
“He’s doing a good job. It’s just a matter of, you never know when you might see him. There’s nothing negative there.”
When he was asked about Pryor, he gave virtually the same response:
“Those guys are going to work their way into the system,” Pees said. “It just a lot of times depends on the front that we’re playing. Maybe we have a better grouping with a certain group of guys, or a lot of the time it’s based on the offensive personnel – will this guy hold up against their offensive tackle or guard or tight end, or whoever it might be? We just try to figure the best we can that, these are the guys that need to fit in there. Sometimes that means that roles really increase. And sometimes, it’s decreased. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. In both of their cases, Pryor and Brace, we’re happy with them. They’re working very hard.
“Myron fit better in our sub package. That was kind of his role in the Tampa game. That can change week to week.”
Now, is it possible Pryor has just outplayed Brace? Sure. But, according to Pees, it’s also possible Brace may find his way into the rotation at tackle again.