- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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SEATTLE, Wash. -- A few quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots' inactive players:
Hernandez active for first time since Sept. 16. Tight end Aaron Hernandez is active for the first time since injuring his ankle Sept. 16 against the Cardinals. He is one of three tight ends on the 46-man game-day roster, along with Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells. We'll see how much he plays; Hernandez usually is on the field for every snap, but it's unlikely he can handle such a workload today.
Eight offensive linemen. The Patriots usually prefer to dress seven offensive linemen, with the top backups covering multiple positions. But it's eight this week, and that probably ties to the health of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who was a game-time decision (knee/back). Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald and Marcus Cannon are the backups. Also, the Seahawks have had success blocking kicks (particularly defensive lineman Red Bryant), so this also adds some added depth on the field-goal protection unit.
Francis over Bequette. From a bottom-of-the-roster perspective, it is notable that rookie free agent defensive end Justin Francis gets the nod over third-round draft choice Jake Bequette. One possibility is that Francis could help more on special teams. Or it might simply be that the coaching staff views Francis ahead of Bequette on the depth chart.
Quick hits: With safety Steve Gregory out for the second straight week, rookie Tavon Wilson projects to start. That has a trickle-down effect with Ras-I Dowling possibly bumping up the defensive back depth chart in sub packages in a sub-linebacker type role. ... With linebacker Dont'a Hightower out, as well as top backup Tracy White, the Patriots have a big hole at strongside linebacker on the depth chart. It could be Rob Ninkovich moving from end to that spot, with either Jermaine Cunningham or Brandon Deaderick stepping in at end. Or perhaps the team turns to Bobby Carpenter.
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