1. Sure seems like the Patriots, with coordinator Josh McDaniels taking over for Bill O'Brien, are exploring every possible avenue to have a fullback-type presence on the roster after not having one for most of 2011. They signed free agents Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta in the offseason, but neither stuck. They also added fullback James Develin to the practice squad on Sunday. Hilliard could fill that type of role while also factoring on special teams.
2. Hilliard played in six games against the Patriots over the last three years, all with the Dolphins. So there was some familiarity with him from a scouting and game-planning perspective.
3. Could view the signing of Hilliard as a sign that second-year running back Shane Vereen, who hobbled off in the third preseason game, won't be ready for the season opener. Then again, it was looking that way even before Hilliard, who adds depth to the offensive backfield, was signed. We'll see how long he sticks.
4. With Tennant waived, the Patriots are down to just eight offensive linemen. That's thin, especially with center/guard Nick McDonald (arm/shoulder) still recovering, being held out of practice and unlikely to play in the opener. Five-year veteran Donald Thomas or four-year man Ryan Wendell should be active as interior linemen for the opening game, with one starting and the other the top center/guard backup.