New England Patriots: Kenbrell Thompkins

Some leftovers from Patriots OTAs

May, 31, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Emptying out the notebook from the Patriots' organized team activities Friday:
  1. Something that stood out to me late in practice was second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais leading the defensive huddle with authority in 11-on-11 drills. I watched him put his hands on a teammate after barking out the play-call in a take-charge type of manner. Beaurharnais, the seventh-round pick from Rutgers, is a candidate to elevate into a Dane Fletcher-type reserve role in 2014.

  2. The Patriots were light at tight end, with only Michael Hoomanawanui and undrafted rookie Justin Jones on the field. Rob Gronkowski and D.J. Williams were present but not taking part in practice, while undrafted rookie Asa Watson was at the required Rookie Premeire event. Energetic assistant coach Brian Daboll was working the tight ends hard. Jones stands out with his height (6-8, 277) and he seems to have reliable hands. Because he's so big, fluidity with footwork in tight spaces (e.g. sharp cuts in cone drills) looks like it can be a challenge for him.

  3. With the light tight end crew, fullback James Develin broke down with the group and went through pass-catching and blocking drills with them.

  4. There was a quick tempo to the early part of practice, with coaches urging players to get lined up quickly as the offense went through some of its plays. Things eventually slowed down, but it was a good example of how the Patriots want to have the ability to play fast and the coaches created mental stress for the players. Along those lines, there was also plenty of signaling by defensive players, and the use of headsets by the coaching staff.

  5. Linebacker Jerod Mayo (torn pectoral muscle, Oct. 13) was on the field for most of the practice, a sign that his recovery has progressed well, as was expected after he met with reporters earlier this month.

  6. Just as we saw in the AFC-East clinching victory in Baltimore in December, second-year player Josh Kline lined up at left guard. In this case, it was because Logan Mankins wasn't present.

  7. Receivers Danny Amendola, Reggie Dunn and Kenbrell Thompkins, and running back Roy Finch, were a few players taking reps as punt returners. There were several parts of practice devoted to special teams, as is often the case.

  8. While more of the practice was about teaching, receiver Julian Edelman seemed to have a productive session with several catches. At one point, after a missed connection with Tom Brady along the right sideline, he was upset with himself and showed his frustration outwardly. With Edelman and Amendola paired together at times, the Patriots still seemed to be lacking that taller outside presence on sideline and downfield throws.

  9. Practice finished with players called over to a hill behind the second practice field, which they had to run multiple times. As Tom Brady noted later Friday night, it's an uphill climb for the team to get where it wants to go.

  10. The next organized team activity open to reporters is Thursday.

Leftover pieces of Patriots mail

March, 27, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- A few leftover pieces of mail from the weekly New England Patriots mailbag:

Darryl Williams in Baltimore, Md., writes: Hey Mike, what would you predict the Patriots do about safety Adrian Wilson as far as a spot on the roster? I think Wilson would complement our secondary very well.

Reiss: Darryl, my feeling on Wilson has been that I'd be surprised if he's on the club. He looked to be on the roster bubble at the end of 2013 preseason (seemed a bit slow in preseason games) and if not for a season-ending injury, I had him on the outside looking in based on performance. That's why I haven't really factored him into the mix upon his return to health.




John M in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Maybe this isn't the most pressing question, but when will we know what number Darrelle Revis is going to wear? I'm sure he's hoping to pick up No. 24. (I ask because I bought a jersey shortly after he signed with the Pats, but I guess they can't start making them till they get the number situation sorted out.)

Reiss: John, this actually relates to our first question because Adrian Wilson currently owns the No. 24 and paid a "heavy" price to get it (a year's supply of Pampers diapers for cornerback/new dad Kyle Arrington). I think Revis will ultimately get 24, but the team still has Wilson on the roster, perhaps because he's still not 100 percent and a team can't cut an injured player.




Ramin in San Marcos, Texas, writes: Hey Mike, let's just say that we decide not to add another WR to what we already have and then all of them end up staying healthy through camp/preseason next year. Including Matthew Slater we would have to keep seven receivers on the roster unless we cut Kenbrell Thompkins or Josh Boyce. Now I really hope that does not happen so my question to you is, do you think Brandon LaFell is a lock to make the 2014 53-man roster with his $3 million dollar signing bonus, or could you see him being the odd man out (assuming we need the extra roster spot and everyone stays healthy)?

Reiss: Ramin, I'd put LaFell in the 99-percent category for being on the club. I'd be surprised if he wasn't when everything ultimately sorts itself out.




Toni Kemmerle in Brunswick, Maine, writes: After watching Jared Allen sign with the Bears, the Patriots do not seem to be in the running for the services of a high profile free agent defensive end who can rush the passer. Do you think they will try to fill this desperate need through the draft or by signing a number of affordable free agents and seeing what shakes out?

Reiss: Toni, at this point, I'd lean toward the draft as well as internal development with Michael Buchanan. I also think a second-year player like Jamie Collins can be a factor when given the opportunity to rush the passer. That is one of the things I've learned in an offseason study of different teams -- many of them talk about the idea/concept of trying to find the answers from within first. That could be in play here.




Bob K. in Cambridge, Mass., writes: How does the experimental PAT from the 20 during the preseason apply to 2-point conversions?

Reiss: Bob, if the team declares it's going for the 2-point conversion, the ball would be placed on the 2-yard line. If not, it goes to the 20 for the point-after attempt.

Pats players react to Talib deal

March, 12, 2014
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Cornerback Aqib Talib's late-night contract agreement with the Denver Broncos sparked reaction from two of Talib's former Patriots teammates on Twitter.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

January, 11, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing thoughts on the New England Patriots' 43-22 divisional-round playoff victory Saturday over the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game for the eighth time in Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, which continues a remarkable run of success for Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Many of the faces around them have changed over the years, but Belichick and Brady have been the constants, and one could make a case this has been their most impressive season as a tandem. The Patriots have been hit as hard by injuries as any team in the NFL, but they've willed their way to put themselves in position to win their first Super Bowl championship since the 2004 season.

Running game sparks attack again: For the third consecutive game, the Patriots' ground attack was the difference-maker, led by hard-charging LeGarrette Blount (franchise-record four rushing touchdowns). The Patriots split snaps at running back evenly among Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and sliced up the Colts with strong work up front by the offensive line -- left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Logan Mankins, center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly and right tackle Marcus Cannon -- as well as tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan and fullback James Develin. When the Patriots run it like this, it brings back memories of the 2004 Super Bowl championship team for which bruiser Corey Dillon was the lead back.

Injuries to monitor: Punter Ryan Allen left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski handled the punting duties, and Brady handled the holder responsibilities as part of the field-goal operation. If Allen is unavailable in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots would almost certainly bring in another punter. Former Patriot Zoltan Mesko isn't an option, as he punted for the Bengals in the playoffs and isn't eligible to join another team. ... Elsewhere, rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury (presumably a concussion) and did not return. Veteran Austin Collie was his replacement.

Stock watch: Jamie Collins -- up. The Patriots' top pick in the 2013 draft (52nd overall) was thrust into an expanded role, in part because linebacker Brandon Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the week. Collins had played just 25 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season, but he didn't come off the field and made his presence felt as a tackler, pass-rusher and in coverage with an interception. He was all over the field in what was a coming out party for the ultra-athletic defender from Southern Mississippi.

What's next: The Patriots will play in the AFC Championship Game against the winner of Sunday's game between the visiting San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos (4:40 p.m. ET). If Denver beats San Diego, the AFC Championship Game will be played in Denver. If San Diego beats Denver, the AFC Championship Game will be played in New England. Regardless of location, the game will be played at 3 p.m. ET next Sunday.

WR Dobson remains out of practice

January, 8, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson remains out of practice with a foot injury, making it unlikely he will be available for Saturday's divisional-round playoff against the Indianapolis Colts.

Dobson
Dobson, who hobbled off in the second quarter of the Patriots' season finale against the Bills on Dec. 29, hasn't practiced since.

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he is the team's tallest receiver and also arguably the club's best deep threat. A second-round draft choice out of Marshall, Dobson totaled 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, playing 46.4 percent of the offensive snaps.

Julian Edelman (5-foot-10, 198 pounds) has been the Patriots' top receiver for most of the year and the Patriots' most ideal pairing in the two-receiver set has been when he teams up with Dobson, with Danny Amendola (5-11, 195) serving as the No. 3 target.

Without Dobson, the Patriots have at times turned more to Amendola, although he has a similar skill set to Edelman's. An Edelman-Amendola pairing also leaves the Patriots a bit smaller on the outside.

Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (6-1, 195) and five-year veteran Austin Collie (6-0, 204) are next on the depth chart.

Elsewhere on the Patriots' injury front, starting left guard Logan Mankins (ankle) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee) were present at practice for the second straight day.

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

December, 29, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing thoughts at halftime of the New England Patriots' regular-season finale against the Bills (New England leads 16-3):

Mankins' toughness is evident: When starting left guard Logan Mankins was helped off the field in the second quarter, it was natural to assume it was serious. Mankins is one of the toughest Patriots players, once playing on a torn ACL. But after going to the locker room, Mankins soon returned to action. It very well might be serious, but they don't come much tougher than Mankins.

Dobson foot injury could lead to Collie call: With rookie receiver Aaron Dobson limping off the field in the first quarter (and not returning), it moved Kenbrell Thompkins up the depth chart into some two-receiver packages. Also, Danny Amendola played in some two-receiver packages along with Julian Edelman after opening the game exclusively as the No. 3. One thought: If Dobson's injury is serious enough to keep him out, it could lead to a quick call back for Austin Collie.

Edelman's milestone: Edelman has arguably been the Patriots' most consistent offensive player this season, and he hit both the 100-catch and 1,000-yard receiving marks today. The spark he is providing the offense is Wes Welker-like.

Wet ball a factor: With the game being played under heavy rain, ballhandling has been shaky on both sides. New England's Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount had fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Patriots. Amendola dropped a pass. It looked like one long throw might have slipped out of Tom Brady's hand.

Style of play reminds of 2004 season: When the Patriots run the ball like they have today, and also last Sunday against Baltimore, it brings back memories of the 2004 season when Corey Dillon was rumbling through opposing defenses. Dillon was a big back, and while Blount is not in that class, his size stands out.

Credit to the defense: The Patriots are piecing things together on defense, but credit to the unit for coming up with the stops in the critical situations (e.g. fourth-and-1). It doesn't always look pretty, and the Bills have helped in some areas with sloppy play, but the New England defense has done its part so far today.

Bills get the ball: The Bills won the opening toss and elected to defer, so they will get the ball at the start of the second half.

Solder, Vereen, Thompkins active

December, 29, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Starting New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder and running back Shane Vereen are both active for today's game against the Buffalo Bills, which is the most notable takeaway from the team's list of inactive players.

Solder missed last Sunday's win against the Ravens with a concussion, and Vereen was limited to seven snaps with a groin injury in the game.

Also, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) is active after missing the past three games.

The full list of inactives:

DE Jake Bequette
OL Chris Barker
DT Isaac Sopoaga
CB Alfonzo Dennard
S Devin McCourty
LB Steve Beauharnais
WR Josh Boyce

ANALYSIS: Sopoaga is a healthy scratch for the second straight week. He has slipped to fourth on the defensive tackle depth chart behind Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, and Joe Vellano, and the Patriots need the depth in other areas ... Dennard was a game-time decision last week (shoulder/knee) and he gets the rest today; hence the promotion of practice squad cornerback Justin Green on Saturday.

Bills inactives:

QB EJ Manuel (knee)
WR Stevie Johnson (personal)
WR Cordell Roberson
RB Ronnie Wingo
DB Brandon Smith
G Mark Asper
G Antoine McClain

Ninkovich limited at practice by ankle injury

December, 26, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (concussion) and wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) were the two players absent from Thursday's practice, while defensive end Rob Ninkovich was the only addition to the injury report, with an ankle issue that limited him on Thursday.

It is not known when the injury to Ninkovich occurred or how much it has limited him. He was seen in the locker room Thursday without any noticeable limp or hitch in his step.

If McCourty and Boyce are unable to practice on Friday, it would cast doubt on their availability for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Bills.

A total of 12 players were limited in practice Thursday, a list that included left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), both of whom missed the Week 16 game in Baltimore.


McCourty, Boyce absent from practice

December, 24, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Starting safety Devin McCourty and rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) were the two New England Patriots not spotted at the team's walkthrough on Tuesday morning.

Joyce
Boyce
McCourty
McCourty left Sunday's game after tackling Ravens tight end Ed Dickson in the third quarter and did not return. The team officially announced it as a head injury, although it is unclear if McCourty suffered a concussion. Rookie safety Duron Harmon filled in for McCourty.

Boyce, meanwhile, suffered a Week 15 ankle injury against the Dolphins that kept him off the practice field all of last week and out of Sunday's game. The timetable for his return is unclear.

Running back Shane Vereen, who left Sunday's game with a groin injury, was on the field and taking part in team stretching. Safety Steve Gregory, who left the game Sunday with an undisclosed injury but did return, was present for the walkthrough but spent the media-access portion of it on the sidelines.

Left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) were also present for the indoor walkthrough.

One additional note: Running back LeGarrette Blount was still wearing his AFC East Champions hat. He obviously likes the fit.

WR Boyce unlikely to play vs. Ravens

December, 20, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce, who injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, was not present at practice for the third straight day, making it unlikely he plays Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

Joyce
Boyce
Boyce has been serving as the primary kickoff returner and was playing a top role at receiver with fellow rookies Aaron Dobson (three games missed with foot injury) and Kenbrell Thompkins (two games missed with hip injury) sidelined.

With Dobson and Thompkins looking like they are nearing a return, it could offset the loss of Boyce at receiver. The Patriots would most likely turn to running back LeGarrette Blount or safety Devin McCourty for kickoff return duties.

Boyce was the only player not present at practice, meaning that starting left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) was on the practice field for the second straight day. Solder was limited in Thursday's practice.

After two days of practicing on the Gillette Stadium game field, the Patriots held practice on their lower grass practice field Friday.

Stevan Ridley, Alfonzo Dennard active

December, 8, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As expected, running back Stevan Ridley is active for the Patriots and will dress for today's game against the Cleveland Browns. What remains to be seen is just how much he will play after being deactivated last week following three straight games with a fumble.

The team announced its final five inactives -- wide receiver Aaron Dobson and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon had previously been ruled out -- which includes running back Brandon Bolden, who was listed with a non-injury issue but probable to play, and rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), who was limited this week in practice.

Starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who has missed two of three games with a knee injury and was listed as questionable, will play. Veteran wide receiver Austin Collie, re-signed this week, is active and will play. With Dobson and Thompkins sitting, Collie could be in line for reps as the team's third or fourth receiver.

Below is a full list of Patriots inactives:

LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
RB Brandon Bolden
OT Marcus Cannon
WR Aaron Dobson
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
WR Kenbrell Thompkins

Below is a list of Browns inactives:

WR Josh Cooper
OL Reid Fragel
OL Garrett Gilkey
TE Keavon Milton
QB Alex Tanney
OL Martin Wallace
QB Brandon Weeden

Double Coverage: Patriots at Texans

November, 29, 2013
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Andre Johnson and Chandler JonesUSA Today SportsAndre Johnson, left, and the Texans hope to surprise Chandler Jones and the Patriots.
HOUSTON -- The last time the Houston Texans faced the New England Patriots during the regular season, Houston was 11-1 and the hottest team in the league. To celebrate their youthful camaraderie, they ordered letterman jackets, the kind high school teams wear, and the jackets happened to come in right before the Patriots game.

That game marked a turning point for the Texans.

The timing of the jackets had nothing to do with the opponent; former Texans Connor Barwin and Shaun Cody were simply trying to create a tradition. That they lost so badly just after unveiling them turned the jackets into a punch line.

The Patriots won 42-14, and the Texans finished their season having lost three of their last four games. That meant losing the home-field advantage that seemed theirs before that game and led to another meeting with the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. New England won again, 41-28.

It was a lesson for the Texans in what it takes to be a great team.

Heading into this season, many thought the Texans were positioned to be one of the top teams in the NFL. The Patriots seemed poised for a down year, by their standards, but here we are in Week 13 and they sit in their usual spot atop the AFC East.

ESPN.com Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discuss the matchup.

Ganguli: Mike, how has the loss of so many of his top targets from last season impacted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?

Reiss: We saw it impact Brady more significantly through the first eight games. But things have started to click the past two games, and it’s no coincidence that it coincides with tight end Rob Gronkowski's reaching a new level of comfort since his return Oct. 20, and running back Shane Vereen's coming off the injured reserve list. With those two joining receivers Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins, the pass-catching corps has been as stocked as we’ve seen all season.

I know it’s been a down year for the Texans, but is J.J. Watt still creating havoc? Is that defense still tough?

Ganguli: Watt is still creating havoc. He has 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He is someone opposing offenses must track on every play. The Texans' defense has played well, but it has holes. On Sunday, the Jaguars had success with the matchup of receiver Cecil Shorts against cornerback Brandon Harris in the slot. Injuries to middle linebacker Brian Cushing and strong safety Danieal Manning have been particularly damaging. The Texans have statistically been much better with Cushing than without him since he was drafted. Their attempt to add some mental toughness with Ed Reed didn’t work as they had hoped, so two young players are starting at safety -- Shiloh Keo at free safety and D.J. Swearinger at strong safety. Swearinger is the Texans’ rookie second-round pick. He will be really good, but right now he’s learning a lot about playing at this level. They haven’t allowed a lot of yards, but have allowed too many points and not created enough turnovers.

Speaking of turnovers, as I watched Sunday night’s Patriots game against the Broncos, it seemed every time I looked up the Patriots had either committed or forced a turnover. What did you make of that? Was it an aberration?

Reiss: The forced turnovers were the norm, as the Patriots recently ended a streak of 36 games with at least one forced turnover (Nov. 18 vs. Carolina). The Patriots' committing turnovers was a little more out of character, although one of the pressing issues facing the club is what to do with lead running back Stevan Ridley (3 lost fumbles in the past three games). The Patriots are traditionally strong in turnover differential, and this season is no different, as they are plus-8 with 23 takeaways and 15 giveaways.

I know this probably comes out of left field, but how is the playing surface at Reliant Stadium? Patriots followers remember the last visit, in 2009, when Wes Welker tore his ACL. I saw a recent game, and it looks like there are patches of grass on the field with noticeable seams in certain parts.

Ganguli: Not out of left field at all. If the game you saw was the Texans’ Nov. 3 Sunday night game against the Indianapolis Colts, this was a major topic of conversation that night. The field looked pretty bad, mostly because there was a college game played on the same grass that week. They replaced the center of the field, but the outer grass was a mess. The University of Houston has played five games at Reliant Stadium this season while its stadium is being renovated. It has played most of them on field turf. The Cougars will play again on Friday morning, and none of the grass will be replaced between that game and the Texans-Patriots game Sunday. I believe the thinking is that will give it enough time to recover. Something to watch, though.

Let’s talk more about defense to wrap up here. Will Aqib Talib be assigned to Andre Johnson on Sunday? How do you think he’ll fare?

Reiss: That would make a lot of sense, as Talib has often been assigned the opponent’s top receiver. After a rocky game Nov. 18 against Carolina and Steve Smith, he was very good this past Sunday night against Demaryius Thomas in the 34-31 win against the Broncos. Talib has been key for the pass defense. Meanwhile, the loss of key players to season-ending injuries (defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, and linebacker Jerod Mayo) has hurt the run defense at times, such as in the Broncos game. But they played a 4-2-5 nickel for most of the game, and I don’t think that will be as much of a factor against the Texans. The Patriots will probably be in their base defense more often, and they played well against the Panthers’ tough running attack in that package.

One thing I think Patriots followers would be interested to hear is what has happened to the Texans? How could a team go so quickly from the AFC divisional round of the playoffs and talking about “letterman” jackets to vying for the No. 1 pick in the draft?

Ganguli: Even with some of the missteps in the offseason, it would have been difficult to foresee this. There are a lot of issues, but I'll focus on the quarterback situation. The biggest mystery is what happened to quarterback Matt Schaub. He was never on the level of Brady, but he gave the Texans what they needed. He was consistent and productive. He actually played really well in leading comebacks against the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans this season. That seems so long ago. The Texans' turnover margin has been among the worst in the league all season, and Schaub was part of that. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw pick-sixes in four consecutive games. He threw one on the first pass of the game against the San Francisco 49ers, and that game marked the only time this season Schaub played poorly from start to finish. There were myriad other problems, but Schaub lost his starting spot when he suffered a foot and ankle injury in Week 6. First-year quarterback Case Keenum took over, but his play hasn't meant victories. In his first three starts, he played well in the first half and not so well in the second half. His most recent game, against Jacksonville, was his worst of the season. Keenum threw for 169 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

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Dobson's absence adds injury context

November, 27, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was not present for the start of today's practice, which adds context to a personnel switch the team made in the second half of Sunday's 34-31 overtime win against the Broncos.

Dobson
Dobson, it appears, was dealing with some form of injury. That would explain why he played only two of his 37 snaps in the second half. He was replaced by fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, who played 41 of his 44 snaps in the second half.

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked about the switch from Thompkins to Dobson and referenced the idea of riding the hot hand as Thompkins had some immediate production in the third quarter to spark the stagnant offense.

It appears there was also some injury consideration in play with Dobson, which will become clearer when the team releases its first injury report later Wednesday. The injury status of linebacker Dont'a Hightower will also be something to note, as he didn't play the final 45 minutes of Sunday's game.

Elsewhere at practice, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle) were the other players not spotted. There was also a new player on the field who appeared to be an offensive lineman.

The Patriots practiced inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse because of rain and high winds in the region.

Josh McDaniels on filling No. 4 WR void

November, 11, 2013
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When the New England Patriots released veteran Austin Collie last Tuesday after he injured his knee, it created a void at the No. 4 receiver spot.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked Monday about the team's plans to fill it, and his answer provided insight as to how the coaching staff currently views the receiver depth chart.

McDaniels
McDaniels
First, McDaniels said that the idea of settling on a top three (Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola) has been part of the mindset, with the idea of "being able to try to have some consistency in terms of the things we are doing with those guys."

So that puts rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce as the top candidates to vie for Collie's playing time in the No. 4 spot, which averaged 22 snaps per game over the past three weeks. Both were healthy scratches last week against the Steelers.

"KT and Josh Boyce will also factor into the competition in terms of who is active and how we go about forming the game plan," McDaniels said. "You never like to have a player get hurt, and certainly Austin was helping us and doing what we asked of him, but any time you have a situation like this that comes up during the course of the season, it provides a little spark of competition, and [I] think that is healthy for any group on the team. We will look forward to the receivers going out there and having a good week of practice and then trying to let it unfold from there."

Thompkins has 23 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns in eight games played. Boyce has been inactive for each of the past four games, and has one catch for 24 yards this season.

Progress report: Rookies chip in

November, 7, 2013
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The New England Patriots have received significant contributions from their rookie class this season. In Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, this season ranks near the top of the list, if not at the top, in this area.

Following up Field Yates' progress report on second-year players from this morning, here is a rookie breakdown (alphabetical order):

Allen
Punter Ryan Allen: The undrafted free agent ranks 10th in the NFL with a 46.4 average and 16th in net punting (39.9) as he's proven to be up to the task of replacing veteran Zoltan Mesko. He's also the holder on field goals, and Stephen Gostkowski is 22 of 23 this season. Allen's eight touchbacks are tied for the NFL high, which is an area for improvement.

Guard Chris Barker: Claimed on waivers from the Dolphins at the final roster cutdown, the undrafted free agent from Nevada dressed for the first three games of the season as veteran backup Will Svitek was working his way back from a knee injury, but hasn't played on offense. This looks like a red-shirt year for him as the Patriots have avoided the risk of another team claiming him on waivers (Dolphins?) should they try to move him to the practice squad.

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The seventh-round draft choice from Rutgers has dressed for three games, but hasn't played on defense. This appears to be more of a red-shirt year for him.

Receiver Josh Boyce: The fourth-round draft choice from Texas Christian played in the first five games (1 catch, 24 yards) but has been inactive for the past four as veteran Austin Collie was viewed as a more consistent option. Boyce is one of the fastest receivers on the team, but appears to need a little more time to put it all together.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan: The seventh-round pick from Illinois opened the season as the primary right defensive end in sub packages, but a few struggles with rush-lane integrity (Oct. 6 vs. Bengals and Oct. 20 vs. Jets) led to the signing of veteran Andre Carter, who has since taken over that role. Buchanan contributes on special teams and is now No. 4 on the overall defensive end depth chart, with obvious upside.

Linebacker Jamie Collins: The second-round pick from Southern Mississippi has been a core special teams player and was integrated a bit more defensively after linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost to a season-ending injury Oct. 13. But after flashing a bit Oct. 20 vs. the Jets, he was pushed around in the first half against the Dolphins on Oct. 27 and has played sparingly on defense since. He has all the tools, but appears to need a bit more time.

Dobson
Receiver Aaron Dobson: The second-round pick from Marshall has come on strong in recent weeks, elevating to the top spot on the depth chart as the X outside target. He has 31 receptions for 454 yards with four touchdowns, and at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds gives the Patriots a combination of size and speed that they haven't had at the position since Randy Moss.

Safety Duron Harmon: Considered a reach as a third-round pick, the Rutgers product has been a top backup behind starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, playing in some sub packages. He also filled in on special teams when core player Tavon Wilson was out with a hamstring injury. Teammates have talked about his smarts and his professional approach.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones: Claimed on waivers from the Buccaneers on Sept. 11, he earns our vote for Patriots "rookie of the first half" with five sacks in six games played. At 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, his quickness has been an asset as an interior rusher, and he's been competitive from a strength/physical standpoint on run plays. Waived by the Texans, who drafted him in the sixth round, he briefly landed in Tampa before the Buccaneers let him go and the Patriots pounced. He has proven to be a steal.

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Cornerback Logan Ryan: The third-round pick from Rutgers has made some big plays, such as an interception return for a touchdown against the Jets on Oct. 20, as he's been thrust into a top reserve role in recent weeks with Aqib Talib out. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he has mostly been competitive in coverage and shown a willingness to play the run.

Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: The undrafted free agent from Cincinnati has slid down the depth chart the past two weeks after serving mostly as the primary X option on the outside (23 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs) through the first seven games. He made the big game-winning catch against the Saints on Oct. 13, but has since been passed on the depth chart by Dobson.

Defensive tackle Joe Vellano: The undrafted free agent from Maryland is one of the surprises of the season. After opening the season as the No. 3 option behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, he has been thrust into a starting role as both veterans have been lost to season-ending injuries. At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, he might be viewed as undersized by some, but he wins with technique and scrappiness.

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