|09.14.09 at 6:07 pm ET|
FOXBOROUGH — On the Patriots’ list of inactives for tonight’s game, there are no big surprises: Offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger and Kendall Simmons, wide receiver Julian Edelman, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, kick returner Matthew Slater and cornerback Terrence Wheatley.
Connolly figures to be a backup to left guard Logan Mankins, while Ohrnberger likely fills the same role at right guard behind Stephen Neal. Simmons remains a long-term project — he confessed to me that he’s still a ways away from getting back to real action after an Achilles’ injury prematurely ended his 2008 season when he was with Pittsburgh. (When he does return, he projects as a backup guard.)
Edelman was limited in practice throughout the week by an ankle injury, and his absence could mean more chances for Sam Aiken in the passing game. Green-Ellis is simply a victim of the numbers game at running back — the same is true for Pryor along the defensive line, although the rookie was hobbled by a calf injury throughout the week.
The loss of Slater (elbow) and Wheatley (knee) leaves the Patriots a little thin in the return game — Slater is the No. 1 kick returner on the depth chart, while Wheatley and Edelman are backup punt returners. Wes Welker (who was on the field a few moments ago in warmups, and looked to be moving with a problem) will handle the bulk of the punt returns, along with Kevin Faulk. No Slater means Laurence Maroney could get the call at the kick return spot tonight. Rookie Darius Butler and Welker are also a possibility as kick returners.
Two guys of note who are available are Welker (who was limited in practice because of a reported knee injury) and cornerback Shawn Springs (who was also slowed by a knee injury this preseason). Springs has a reputation as a T.O. stopper — it’ll be interesting to see how often he lines up opposite Owens tonight.