New England Patriots: A.J. Francis

Patriots-Dolphins connections, Part 2

December, 13, 2013
We normally use this space to highlight members of the Patriots' upcoming opponent who have ties to the organization.

Those names were highlighted prior to the first time they played the Dolphins, so we'll audible a bit this week and look at current members of the Patriots who have ties to the Dolphins.

Defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Before he became a blue-chip defensive end and captain for the Patriots, Ninkovich had a winding path that took him from New Orleans to Miami (and eventually back to New Orleans). He played in five games for the Dolphins, posting two tackles.

Guard Chris Barker. Barker was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in May after a productive career at Nevada. He was released by the team on Aug. 31 and subsequently claimed by the Patriots. He's a reserve interior lineman now.

Special-teams coach Scott O'Brien. When current Alabama coach Nick Saban was with the Dolphins in the same capacity, he brought O'Brien aboard to serve as the football operations coordinator/assistant to the head coach. The two had worked together previously in Cleveland. O'Brien spent two seasons (2005-06) in Miami.

And a bonus connection: Defensive tackle A.J. Francis was claimed by the Patriots after being waived by the Dolphins at the end of training camp, and eventually wound up on the practice squad. The Dolphins recently re-signed Francis to their own active roster, as he's now back with the team he began his NFL career with.

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 13

December, 4, 2013
Every Wednesday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a quick recap of notable former New England Patriots players and their standing with new teams.

Jake Ballard (Cardinals)
Tight end plays four offensive snaps and six on special teams in a 24-21 road loss to the Eagles. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Has been with the Cardinals for four games since signing Nov. 4, playing 53 of 281 snaps and totaling two catches for 44 yards.

Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Safety starts and plays all 71 snaps in a 24-21 home win over the Cardinals. Has one pass defended.
Season snapshot: Has started six of 12 games and is credited with 36 tackles.

Jermaine Cunningham (Jets)
Outside linebacker plays six defensive snaps and 11 on special teams in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Spent the month of October with the 49ers but never appeared in a game. Signed with the Jets on Nov. 20. He dressed Nov. 24 but didn't play, so the Dolphins game was his debut.

Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Defensive tackle plays 23 of 75 snaps in 32-28 road win over the Browns. Totals one tackle.
Season snapshot: Has played 288 total snaps, totaling eight tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

A.J. Francis (Dolphins)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 23-3 road win over the Jets.
Season snapshot: Signed off the Patriots' practice squad Nov. 26,

Kyle Love (Chiefs)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 35-28 home loss to the Broncos.
Season snapshot: After spending training camp with the Jaguars and being released before the season opener, he signed with the Chiefs on Nov. 19. Appeared in one game, playing two snaps, before being waived Dec. 3.

Greg Salas (Jets)
Receiver is targeted four times and makes one catch in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Plays 30 of 55 snaps.
Season snapshot: In four games with the Jets since making his debut Nov. 3, he has seven catches for 137 yards. Has played 118 of 231 offensive snaps in those games.

Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Plays seven snaps on offense and 15 on special teams but doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Tight end has played 103 offensive snaps in seven games. Has four catches for 56 yards.

Jeff Tarpinian (Texans)
Linebacker plays in a reserve role in a 34-31 home loss to the Patriots, totaling two tackles and a half-sack. Plays 27 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: After signing with the Texans on Oct. 28, has played in four games, totaling 12 tackles on defense. Has played 92 of 271 defensive snaps.

Leon Washington (Titans)
Wearing No. 26, he is the primary kickoff returner and punt returner in a 22-14 road loss to the Colts, totaling three kickoff returns for 78 yards (26.0 avg.) and two punt returns for 43 yards (21.5 avg.), with two fair catches. Doesn't play on offense.
Season snapshot: Released by the Patriots on Nov. 23; signed with the Titans on Nov. 26.

Wes Welker (Broncos)
Receiver finishes with three catches for 38 yards as his presence draws attention and opens things up for fellow receiver Eric Decker to have a big day in a 35-28 road win over the Chiefs. Plays 63 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has played 722 of 906 offensive snaps (79.6 percent), and has 68 catches for 717 yards and nine touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back has seven carries for 22 yards and adds two catches for 13 yards in a 17-10 home loss to the Bengals. Plays 27 of 65 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has 61 receptions for 482 yards and five TDs, and has carried the ball 77 times for 288 yards and two TDs. Has played 384 offensive snaps.

Others: Colts starting guard Donald Thomas landed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 2. ... Defensive end Trevor Scott played four games (54 snaps) with the Buccaneers before he was released Oct. 24. ... Punter Zoltan Mesko was released by the Steelers on Oct. 29 after appearing in seven games and ranking 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7). ... Quarterback Brian Hoyer started two games for the Browns, leading them to two wins, before tearing his ACL in his third start and landing on season-ending injured reserve.

Guard Kline promoted; Francis waived

September, 7, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Rookie guard Josh Kline was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, as projected earlier in the day, the Patriots announced on Saturday.

With Kline promoted to the 53-man roster, expect him to dress in Sunday's season-opener against the Buffalo Bills and serve in a backup role and potentially on the field-goal protection unit. That likely pushes rookie center/guard Chris Barker, who was claimed on waivers from the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, to the inactive list.

To make room for Kline, the Patriots waived defensive tackle A.J. Francis, who had been claimed on waivers from the Dolphins last Sunday. Francis is a candidate to return to the practice squad should he clear waivers and have a desire to remain in New England.

This leaves the Patriots with just a three-man rotation in terms of pure defensive tackles, with starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly along with undrafted free agent Joe Vellano.

In addition, the Patriots announced the signing of center Braxston Cave to the practice squad. Cave had been claimed on waivers from the Browns last Sunday. After spending five days on the 53-man roster was waived by the Patriots on Thursday.

The team also confirmed the previously reported signing of running back Leon Washington, and reached an injury settlement with defensive ensd Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis (meaning they are now off the injured reserve list).

Projecting the Patriots' inactives

September, 7, 2013
Every day before the New England Patriots play a game, we'll attempt to predict the team's inactive players.

The Patriots currently have 52 players on their roster. With 46 players allowed on the game-day roster, there are six players who won't be part of the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Our best guess on the list:

RB Brandon Bolden -- Has been limited in practice with a knee injury and was one of the only players not spotted in the preseason finale, so the hunch is that he might need more time.

WR Aaron Dobson -- Rookie was limited in practice with a hamstring injury and currently projects to a reserve role (and doesn't contribute on special teams).

DT A.J. Francis -- Claimed on waivers from the Dolphins on Sunday, the undrafted rookie is still getting up to speed in the system.

TE Rob Gronkowski -- Listed as doubtful as he recovers from forearm and back surgeries, he still seems to be a few weeks away.

OT/G Will Svitek -- Veteran who backs up multiple spots has already been declared out with a knee injury.

LB Chris White -- Claimed on waivers from the Lions on Sunday, he probably needs more time to get integrated into the system.

Extra point: The Patriots sometimes make roster moves the day of the game, and it wouldn't be a surprise if they fill their final roster spot Saturday. Guard Josh Kline would be an ideal candidate from this view, and if it happens, it could bump rookie guard/center Chris Barker to the inactive list.

Pats put in claims on Cooper, Jones

September, 1, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots put in waiver claims on rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper (49ers) and rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones (Texans), but were not awarded the players because they were claimed by other teams that had priority in the waiver order.

Cooper, a seventh-round draft choice (252nd out of 254 picks) out of Rutgers, ended up with the Chiefs. Jones, a sixth-round draft choice out of Bowling Green, ended up with the Buccaneers.

Between these two claims, plus the four players the Patriots were awarded on waivers (center/guard Braxston Cave, linebacker Chris White, guard Chris Barker and defensive tackle A.J. Francis), the team was more aggressive on the waiver wire than the norm in recent years.

Part of the reason the Patriots were so aggressive likely was to address areas on the roster where depth was thin.

Source: Pats claim DT Francis off waivers

September, 1, 2013
The Patriots were awarded defensive tackle A.J. Francis off waivers on Sunday, according to a league source. Francis, an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2013, was waived by the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

Francis, 6-foot-5 and 309 pounds, gives the Patriots additional depth at defensive tackle, where they had just three players after Saturday's roster cut down. The team had gone below the 53-player threshold to 51, leaving open two roster spots.

Francis will join fellow former Maryland defensive tackle Joe Vellano on the Patriots roster. Vellano also was an undrafted free agent this spring.

On his Twitter account, Francis wrote: