A closer look at what the early inactives mean for the Patriots
|11.26.11 at 8:51 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Saturday night that safety Patrick Chung, center Dan Connolly, cornerback Devin McCourty and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco have all been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against the Eagles. The foursome joins linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb) and Brandon Spikes (knee), who were already announced as out on Friday and already have missed the last couple of weeks.
Chung has been struggling with a foot injury he suffered in the waning moments of the Nov. 6 loss to the Giants, and had missed the last two games as a result. Connolly was on the injury list this week with a groin injury, while McCourty suffered a shoulder injury on Nov. 13 against the Jets when he collided with teammate Sterling Moore and has been out since then. And Ochocinco made his first appearance of the season on the injury list this week with a hamstring problem.
As for what this means for the rest of the roster, let’s start in the secondary: First, look for more responsibilities to be placed on the shoulders of James Ihedigbo at safety, while fellow safeties Sergio Brown and Moore will see plenty of snaps. (In an interesting twist, safety Ross Ventrone, who has bounced on and off the roster several times this season because of various personnel moves, will not be part of the active roster for Sunday’s game.)
And no McCourty this week likely means another busy week for Antuwan Molden, who went wire-to-wire at left corner last week for New England on its win over the Chiefs. The Patriots could also give more snaps to Julian Edelman on the defensive side of the football — the former college quarterback has seen some quality snaps on defense the last two games, and could be in line for more on Sunday in hopes of providing depth at the position.
Up front, Connolly’s absence means one thing — Ryan Wendell will see the bulk of the reps in his place. Wendell has stepped in occasionally as the No. 1 interior offensive lineman, and played well last week when Connolly went down. However, without Dan Koppen and Connolly, the Patriots are now very thin at the center spot.
At wide receiver, Ochocinco’s absence should provide an opportunity for second-year receiver Taylor Price to at least more snaps — however, even when healthy, Price has struggled to see the field in his relatively short time in Foxboro, and so this could instead mean more targets for other pass catchers like Edelman and Matthew Slater. (At the same time, it’s important to remember that it’s not like Ochocinco was an integral part of the offense to this point in the season, so the change on the final scoresheet should be relatively negligible.)