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Report: Patriots set to acquire free agent DL Alan Branch

10.21.14 at 8:10 pm ET
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Defensive lineman Alan Branch will apparently join the Patriots. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Defensive lineman Alan Branch will apparently join the Patriots. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Patriots are expected to sign free-agent defensive lineman Alan Branch, according to Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe.

The 29-year-old Branch, who was cut loose by the Bills in August following an arrest for drunken driving, is a 6-foot-6, 325-pounder out of Michigan who has played for the Bills, Seahawks and Cardinals over the course of his career. His best year likely came in 2012, when he started 16 games for Seattle and finished with 29 tackles and a sack.

Known as a run stopper, he should be able to provide some support for a New England run defense that has yielded 190 or more rushing yards in three of the first seven games of the season.

Branch has put together an impressive stretch over the last few seasons, but it is worth mentioning that he comes with some baggage — there was the August arrest, as well as the fact that the Patriots will be his fourth team in the last five seasons, which is always a red flag.

Branch would make the second defender the Patriots acquired on Tuesday — New England also reportedly swung a deal to acquire outside linebacker Akeem Ayers.

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Report: Chandler Jones will miss about a month with hip injury

10.21.14 at 7:24 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Defensive end Chandler Jones missed practice Tuesday with a hip injury that is expected to sideline him for about a month, according to Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe.

The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Jones, in his third season out of Syracuse, leads the Patriots in sacks (4.5) and quarterback hits (8), and is tied for the team lead with Rob Ninkovich in quarterback hurries (14).

With Jones on the sidelines, the Patriots will likely be forced to get creative up front, mixing and matching some different personnel in hopes of finding the right combination. One player who could be in line for more work is rookie defensive end Zach Moore. In addition — if he’s healthy — newcomer Akeem Ayers could be asked to provide a pass-rushing spark off the edge sooner rather than later.

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Stevan Ridley sends message to Patriots fans as he starts rehab

10.21.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month in a win over the Bills, sent out an Instagram message Tuesday afternoon to New England fans as he begins his rehab.

Understand a setback in any aspect of life is only a true test of faith. While doing the thing I love the most, at a pivotal point in my career, I've run across another situation where my faith is being tested. And by tested I mean the same God that brought me to this pivotal point, is making sure I still know why and where my blessings are coming from. So rather than sit around and try to understand this injury, I will use that time to reflect and appreciate the crazy amount of love that I have experienced in the past couple weeks. I will then take all this love and use it as fuel to get back to the plan God has for me. I truly love and thank my family, my friends, my teammates, my coaches, my fans, and all of Patriot Nation for all the love and support. #longliveKiDRiD

A photo posted by KiD-RiD (@stevanridley) on

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Poll: What do you think of Patriots decision to acquire Akeem Ayers?

10.21.14 at 5:43 pm ET
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The Patriots swung a deal for linebacker Akeem Ayers on Tuesday. The veteran has struggled with knee issues over the last year-plus, but if he’s healthy, he could add some much-needed depth for New England at a position that’s taken a hit with the season-ending injury to Jerod Mayo.

What do you think of the Patriots decision to acquire linebacker Akeem Ayers?

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Akeem Ayers will finally get a chance to show what he can do as part of a Patriots defense

10.21.14 at 5:17 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers has nine career sacks with the Titans. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Akeem Ayers has nine career sacks with the Titans. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Patriots passed on Akeem Ayers in the 2011 draft, but he was certainly a prospect who drew their interest.

“I think I would be a great fit for their defense,” Ayers told me at the combine that February when I asked him about the possibility of playing for the Patriots.

One reason he stuck out as a possible Patriot at the time was the fact that even though he made his bones as a defensive end in college, he displayed enough versatility as a collegian at UCLA to think about as an outside linebacker/pass rusher in a 3-4 pro set.

“I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense, whether it’€™s 4-3 or 3-4, because of my versatility playing defensive end in college [and] being a pass-rush linebacker,” he said at the time.

“As far as my pass-rush ability, I know I’€™m nowhere near reaching my peak. I’€™ve done a pretty good job rushing the passer these last two seasons, and I’€™m only going to get better.”

The Patriots certainly hope so, as they have apparently swung a deal to acquire Ayers. A longish, active presence who worked primarily as an end in college, he was a second-round pick of the Titans in 2011 after finishing his college career with 14 sacks.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder made the move to outside linebacker once turning pro, and had his best season in 2012 when he had a career-best six sacks and eight passes defensed to go along with 110 tackles for Tennessee. From 2011 through 2013, he started 44 of a possible 48 games in his first three years with the Titans.

However, he’s struggled with knee issues as of late — he had two separate knee operations this past offseason to repair the patellar tendons in both knees. In the final year of his rookie deal, Ayers has only been active for two games this season, and has had three tackles. (Pro Football Focus has him down for just 10 snaps on the season.)

He has shown a nice ability to work in support when it comes to run defense, but he’s known first and foremost as a pass rusher. In New England, Ayers’ versatility could allow him to play a couple of different roles in the Patriots’ 4-3 front. Ultimately, New England gets a veteran body to help out as a position where it was dangerously thin following the injury to Jerod Mayo.

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Report: Patriots acquire linebacker Akeem Ayers from Titans

10.21.14 at 4:39 pm ET
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According to Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Patriots have traded for Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers, pending a physical. CBS’ Jason La Canfora adds the Patriots will also receive a seventh-round pick and give a sixth-rounder back to Tennessee.

Ayers was a 2011 second-round pick and started in 43 games during his first three seasons in the league, including totaling 66 tackles in 2012. He reportedly had offseason knee surgery on both knees and has only appeared in two games so far this season.

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Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork back at practice for Patriots, Darrelle Revis among those not spotted

10.21.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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Offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming were all present at the start of practice for the Patriots on Tuesday, while cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive end Chandler Jones were not among those spotted at the workout, which was held in sweats and shells, according to reports.

Connolly and Stork have been dealing with head injuries the last couple of weeks, while Fleming has been on the shelf because of a finger problem. Special teamer Nate Ebner, who has also been missing with a finger injury for the last couple of weeks, was also spotted at practice.

On the other side, while Revis has had occasional hamstring issues over the course of the season, nothing has kept him from playing. It’s not known what Jones might be dealing with.

The Patriots will host the Bears Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

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