The New England Patriots headlined the bottom half of the first round in this April's draft, trading up twice to grab impact defenders Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower early on. The rookie class of 2012 looks to be an impressive one as of right now, with the afore-mentioned first rounders along with safety Tavon Wilson and defensive end Jake Bequette. However, that does not mean it is without low points.
Two rookie defensive backs, Nate Ebner and Alfonzo Dennard, have been off the field for the majority of the team's training camp thus far. While neither have fallen on their faces performance wise, they unfortunately have had trouble staying on the field, greatly reducing where people's expectations of them should lie for this year.
Dennard was performing at a competitive level, but has now been out since July 28 with a leg injury. He was a player most expected to compete for playing time as a rookie, despite falling to the seventh round in the draft. With his lack of presence on the practice field, his odds of seeing time early over Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling or Kyle Arrington seem unlikely.
Ebner went the other way and was late to the game, suiting up for the first time August 3. His chance to make the 53-man roster is clearly through special teams, and luckily for him, he is now practicing as a member of the first kickoff team, as Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly noted.
Rookie OL Struggling Early
Dustin Waldron, a rookie guard out of Portland State, was claimed from waivers August 2 from the Miami Dolphins. Since his arrival he has struggled, as also reported by Hart. He has been knocked around a bit by his opposition and has also been seen taking penalty laps as punishment for jumping to a false start.
Adding to his apparent bottom-of-the-roster status, he missed a few days of practice along with the Patriots' first preseason game versus New Orleans. For a player like Waldron, every rep counts when in hopes of competing for a spot on the team's practice squad in September. On a positive note, he is now back at practice, as reported by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com.
Unfortunately for Waldron, despite the rash of injuries to the offensive line, he may be the 90th man on he 90-man roster right now.