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Sunday, October 21, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts from Pats inactives

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts from the Patriots' inactive players today:

Might be time to shut Mankins down for a few weeks. With left guard Logan Mankins (hip/calf) unable to go, you almost wonder if it would be smart to shut him down next week in London as well. With the bye after the trip to London, that would give him two-plus weeks to rest injuries that are making it hard for him to play on Sundays. Five-year veteran Donald Thomas did a nice job replacing Mankins in a 52-28 win over the Bills on Sept. 30, and he is likely to get the call again today.

Questions at safety. With both starting safeties out -- Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Steve Gregory (hip) -- it will be interesting to see what the Patriots come up with at a position that has hurt them this season. Rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are next up on the depth chart, and they were the pairing on the field on the Seahawks' game-winning 46-yard touchdown pass last week. Would the Patriots really turn to two rookies? Sterling Moore, a cornerback who played safety at times last year (making his debut against the Jets), could be a possibility there. So could cornerback Devin McCourty, which would require a shuffling on the cornerback depth chart with Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington the likely top options.

Return of Dont'a Hightower. Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower is back after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. The team's starting strongside linebacker, he's strong against the run. In a game that the Patriots figure to be in their base defense often against the ground-and-pound Jets, Hightower's presence is a positive. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich moved back to linebacker last week, but this frees him up to return to end, where he could split some time with Jermaine Cunningham.

Back to seven offensive linemen. After dressing eight offensive linemen last week, the Patriots are back to their standard seven for this game with Nick McDonald the top interior backup and Marcus Cannon the backup tackle. The Patriots probably went with extra depth last week with the uncertainty of Mankins' ability to make it through the game.

Four tight ends in the mix. The Patriots are going heavy with four tight ends, which could be a tipoff to a game plan that relies heavily on the position. No. 4 tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) was inactive last week.

Edelman also returns from injury. Receiver Julian Edelman is back after injuring his hand Sept. 23 against the Ravens. Will be interesting to see how the receiver reps are split with Wes Welker, who has been on a tear.