The Patriots' much depleted defensive line is taking another big hit, as defensive end/nose tackle Ron Brace will likely be placed on the season ending injured reserve list, according to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald.
According to Rapoport, the move is expected to be announced on Monday, after inside linebacker Brandon Spikes serves the final game of his four game suspension. Brace suffered an elbow injury during Sunday's victory over the Buffalo Bills.
With Brace out, the Patriots will lose a player who has been a mainstay in the Patriots' 3-4 base defense. While Brace certainly isn't going to rack up a lot of sacks, he has held up well against double teams, can close the pocket, and has been solid in run defense. Brace was one of the Patriots most improved players in 2010, going from being labeled a bust by some after just one year, to being an important role player and starter.
Without the beefy Brace, the Patriots will be a little bit thin up front in run defense, without the luxury of being able to play a mammoth-sized defensive line of Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, and Brace. That being said, hopefully Brace's placement on injured reserve means something for the eventual return of defensive end Mike Wright. Also, expect rookie Brandon Deaderick, who has been up and down and battling some injuries as of late, to be re-inserted into the starting lineup. Eric Moore could also see some additional time in the 3-4 base as an end, but I'd tend to think that once more bodies become healthy, he will be used more as an outside linebacker as he was in the Bears game. One additional option is having rookie Kyle Love start at nose tackle, with Warren and Wilfork at the ends in the base 3-4. That way, even without Brace, the Patriots would still have plenty of beef up front.