I know everyone is a little down on New England Patriots NT Ron Brace after an extremely uneventful rookie season. In fact, one could call it disappointing due to 6th round pick DE/NT Myron Pryor, who jumped Brace in the depth chart. Never fear, my friends, because the Brace Train is just getting started.
An article over at NFL.com shows the numbers of rookie DTs taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 2006. Keep in mind that nose tackles in the 3-4 will have fewer statistics than 4-3 defensive tackles, just due to the nature of the defense. DTs in the 4-3 will be penetrating the offensive line more frequently and, in turn, registering a greater number of sacks, rushes, tackles behind the line, etc. Taking a brief look at the defensive tackles on the list, it's clear that the majority are 4-3 DTs (I think the number of 3-4 NTs drafted was 3/17). Therefore, the average stats line that brace is weight against should be even less than the actual average.
Looking at the numbers, Ron Brace is only slightly behind the curve.
According to the article, as a rookie, Brace posted 6 solo tackles and 1 sack (which was taken away due to a penalty). The average rookie DT (in a combination of both the 3-4 and the 4-3) will get 13 tackles and 1 sack and 0.3 of a forced fumble. That's it. Those extremely unimpressive numbers are the average benchmark that players like Brace should be evaluated against, if you're willing to compare a 3-4 NT to a 4-3 DT (which is really like comparing a grapefruit to an orange).
So while Brace may not have blown anyone out of the water a rookie, no defensive or nose tackle in the past couple of years have managed to make a great impact.
Keep in mind that the Patriots have Vince Wilfork to play NT so there's no real reason for Brace to see the field at all.
Oh, and that makes 6th round pick Myron Pryor's 12 tackle, 1 forced fumble rookie season look all the more impressive; he basically matched the average performance of the league's rookie defensive tackles.
After looking at the stats, I'm willing to give Ron Brace another year to show us what he can give us.