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A closer look at the Patriots’ inactives against the Broncos

01.14.12 at 7:27 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — The following players were listed as inactive by New England for Saturday night’s game between the Patriots and Broncos: quarterback Ryan Mallett, running back Shane Vereen, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, guard Donald Thomas, defensive lineman Ron Brace, linebacker Gary Guyton and cornerback Nathan Jones.

•The decision to sit Vollmer is perhaps the biggest move, at least from a personnel standpoint. The right tackle, who returned to practice this week after an extended stretch on the shelf, has been hobbled all season long by back and foot problems, and will likely be spelled at the position by rookie Nate Solder. Solder, a rookie out of Colorado, has actually played serious snaps all season long because of Vollmer’s injuries, and has performed well at tackle (as well as an occasional snap here and there at tight end). He’ll be making his playoff debut, and will likely play a ton of snaps.

•One banged up offensive lineman who will give it a go tonight is guard Logan Mankins. Mankins suffered a knee injury in the penultimate regular-season game, but appears to be good to go against the Broncos. (The decision to deactivate Thomas is likely tied to Mankins’ availability.)

•Guyton and Jones are two healthy scratches that are interesting, as Guyton has slid down the depth chart all season long (there has been at least one occasion this year where he has dressed but hasn’t played). Meanwhile, Jones has added depth in the secondary, but hasn’t been what you might call an integral part of the roster. Jones’ absence could lead to more playing time at defensive back for Julian Edelman and/or Matthew Slater. In fact, the secondary is an extremely fluid situation. Devin McCourty could see time at corner and/or safety, while Kyle Arrington, and Antwaun Molden the top options at cornerback. Meanwhile, Patrick Chung is apparently feeling good enough to play, while James Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown, and Sterling Moore are available safety.

•Mallett has been the victim of a numbers’ game all season, while Vereen has also been sidelined by personnel decisions as well as a nagging hamstring injury he’s battled all season long. Veteran Kevin Faulk is active, and will likely see an uptick in activity because Vereen is out.

Read More: Antwaun Molden, Donald Thomas, Gary Guyton, James Ihedigbo
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