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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Quick-hit thoughts on inactive players

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few quick-hit thoughts from the Patriots' inactive players, in addition to noting Danel Fells slipping down the tight end depth chart:

1. No surprises as inactives reflect healthy roster. Colleague Field Yates went 7 for 7 in projecting the inactive players for the Patriots, which shows a nice grasp of the roster from 1-53 and also highlights how the Patriots have their top players ready for action. A big part of the last month-plus has been managing the health of players so they're at their best for this moment. The time for management is over. Everyone is ready.

2. Ebner and Cole return on special teams. The returns of rookie Nate Ebner (hamstring) and cornerback Marquice Cole (finger) makes defensive backs Malcolm Williams and Derrick Martin inactive. Those decisions are based on special teams contributions, as the Patriots have their top players available to them in the kicking game. Ebner is second on the club in special teams tackles, while Cole is a top gunner. As we saw in Saturday's games, special teams can be crucial.

3. Expect a TE heavy attack. The Patriots are dressing just three pure receivers in Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, which likely reflects a heavy dose of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez today. Usually when Gronkowski and Hernandez are healthy, that's the way it is. Matthew Slater is an emergency option at receiver as the No. 4 option on the depth chart.

4. No extra depth with Ninkovich in mind. With defensive end Rob Ninkovich active after hurting his hip in the season finale, it's notable that the Patriots didn't add an extra layer of depth at the position in the event they were planning to limit his snaps. Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis and Trevor Scott fill out the defensive end depth chart, with rookie Jake Bequette inactive.