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Saturday, October 27, 2012
Who steps up with injuries?

By Field Yates

The Patriots have taken much of the guesswork out of projecting this week's inactives, as six players have already been ruled out for Sunday's game vs. the Rams.

So rather than our normal exercise of projecting the inactives, we'll first list the players who have already been ruled out below, and then list those who may see an increased workload as a result of the absences.

To wrap it up, we'll take a shot at guessing the final inactive player.

Jake Bequette
Jake Bequette debuted against the Bills on Sept. 30, and could make his second 2012 appearance Sunday vs. the Rams.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez
Beneficiary: Tight end Daniel Fells
Quick-hit: When the veteran Fells was added in free agency this offseason, a chorus of "why another tight end?" sprang from many who follow the team closely. Well, beyond the team's commitment to multiple tight end sets, Fells is excellent insurance for injury purposes. This Sunday, with Hernandez out, look for Fells to absorb the second tight end spot behind Rob Gronkowski, and Fells could be a staple on the Patriots' offense throughout the day.

Safety Patrick Chung
Beneficiary: Defensive back Devin McCourty
Quick-hit: It would come as little surprise to see McCourty once again work as a safety in Week 8, which is what he did a week ago in Chung's absence during the team's 29-26 overtime victory against the Jets. McCourty, according to head coach Bill Belichick, was pivotal in helping to prevent big plays last week, and will again be called upon to do so against the Rams.

Safety Steve Gregory
Beneficiary: Safety Tavon Wilson
Quick-hit: Wilson has started in Gregory's recent absence, and looks primed to do so again this week. He's been a pleasant surprise as a rookie, showing a nose for the football and value on special teams, too.

Running back Brandon Bolden
Beneficiary: Running back Shane Vereen
Quick-hit: It was Vereen who started the game in the Patriots' backfield last week, and count on more of him again in Week 8. Beyond Bolden's absence, Vereen is likely to see an increased role because he is finally healthy. He provides big-play ability as a move-in-space runner.

Linebacker Tracy White
Beneficiary: Multiple special teams players
Quick-hit: Colleague Mike Reiss laid out (link here) how the Patriots accounted for White's absence against the Seattle Seahawks, and it was clear that no single player picked up his role on his own. That week it was Nate Ebner, Trevor Scott, Justin Francis and Sterling Moore who filled White's core special teams duties, and with Scott out this week, it could mean multiple players once again picking up White's roles.

Defensive end Trevor Scott
Beneficiaries: Defensive ends Justin Francis and Jake Bequette
Quick-hit: Presumably, Francis will slide up the defensive end depth chart and take over the fourth slot that was previously occupied by Scott. Scott's special teams duties could also go to Francis, and his absence should open the door for Bequette to be active for just the second time this season.

Projected final inactive
Defensive lineman Ron Brace
Reason: Health
Quick-hit: A back issue kept Brace off the field in Week 7, and limited him in practice this week. Though we don't have much information on his injury, he's one of just two players listed as questionable who did not play in Week 7, along with Logan Mankins.