NFL Nation: Josh Boyce

Offensive linemen shine in drills

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
INDIANAPOLIS -- The on-field work has begun here in Indianapolis, with the offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists all taking center stage at Lucas Oil stadium.

Perhaps the headline event at the combine is the 40-yard dash, as evidenced by Adidas offering $100,000 to the fastest player wearing their adizero 5-star cleat.

The offensive linemen have wowed so far today, with top prospects such as Greg Robinson of Auburn and Taylor Lewan of Michigan posting sub-4.9-second times.

Truth be told, the 40 time of offensive linemen isn’t high on teams’ scouting checklist; rather, they often focus more on their 10-yard splits to measure explosiveness.

From a New England Patriots' perspective, one of the drills the team values is the three-cone drill, which, among other things, measures short-area burst and change-of-direction skill.

It’s a drill the team particularly values in assessing defensive backs and slot receivers.

Logan Ryan, the team’s third selection in last year’s draft, finished second among defensive backs at the combine with a time of 6.69 seconds. Wide receiver Josh Boyce was third among wide receivers with a time of 6.68, and undrafted rookie T.J. Moe had the second best time among all participants at 6.53.

The wide receivers work out on Sunday, and defensive backs work out Tuesday. Though all the drills are weighed and considered in the evaluation process, the three-cone is something to keep an eye on from a Patriots' perspective.
When news came that Vikings rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had been named to the Pro Bowl, it generated feedback on Twitter. The common refrain was that the Patriots, who had the 29th pick in the draft, would've been well served to select Patterson rather than trade the pick to Minnesota in a deal that netted them four selections.

And while Patterson has proven to be a dynamic playmaker for Minnesota, he still has work to do as a receiver, and some wonder if his game was suited to the complex offensive system we've seen some receivers struggle to pick up in New England.

The truth is that we don't know exactly how Patterson would fit in New England, but we can assess what the Patriots made of the four picks they acquired in the deal.

Below is a rundown:

Second round pick, No. 52 overall: Used on linebacker Jamie Collins, an eight-game starter and improved performer down the stretch. The Patriots viewed Collins as an upside pick in the second round, as his natural movement skills are obvious. He projects as a full-time starter as soon as 2014.

Third round pick, No. 83 overall: Used on cornerback Logan Ryan, who led all NFL rookies with five interceptions this season. Though not an every-week starter yet, Ryan has turned out to be one of the better values in the third round and a keeper in the secondary.

Fourth round pick, No. 102 overall: Used on wide receiver Josh Boyce, who finished with nine catches this season, while also providing value as a kickoff return man. Boyce was recently placed on injured reserve, though he will add value as a wideout next season, perhaps as a slot man.

Seventh round pick, No. 229 overall: This may have turned out to be the most important piece of the deal as it relates to 2013, as this pick was sent along with Jeff Demps to Tampa Bay in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount, nearly the team's leading rusher (he rushed for one yard less than Stevan Ridley).

It's easy to make knee-jerk reactions to deals at the time they are made. It's also easy to look at the contributions of one player and wonder, "what if?" as has become the case with Patterson.

But given what the above players have meant to the Patriots for this season -- and could mean beyond this season -- this deal likely qualifies under the label of "one we'd make again."
The New England Patriots announced that rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Boyce injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of the team's loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 15 and hasn't played since.

To take his place on the roster, the team announced the signing of veteran receiver Austin Collie, as previously reported by colleague Field Yates.

Boyce's primary contributions came as the team's kickoff returner, a role that running back LeGarrette Blount took over with authority in the season finale against the Bills. A fourth-round draft choice out of Texas Christian, Boyce played in nine games and returned nine kickoffs for 214 yards. He added nine receptions for 121 yards.

The injury status of fellow receiver Aaron Dobson also bears watching. Dobson injured his foot in the season finale and hasn't practiced this week.

Patriots WR depth chart
Julian Edelman
Aaron Dobson
Danny Amendola
Kenbrell Thompkins
Austin Collie
Matthew Slater

Four absent from practice

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the second consecutive day, guard Logan Mankins, wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were not spotted at the start of New England Patriots practice.

Mankins left Sunday's game briefly with an ankle injury and had a walking boot next to his locker on Monday afternoon. Given that the Patriots do not play until next Saturday night, it's possible they are looking to build in extra rest for their top offensive lineman.

Dobson, remains out after injuring his foot in Week 17, the same area that caused him to miss time late in the season. It's unclear if Dobson suffered the same injury to his foot or if a separate issue is now bothering him. Boyce has been hampered by an ankle injury since Week 16, and has not practiced since.

Veteran wide receiver Austin Collie was re-signed Thursday, according to a league source, and was spotted wearing number 10.

Dennard did not play in Week 17, and has dealt with injuries throughout much of the second half of the regular season. Beyond a knee injury, Dennard is also playing through a shoulder problem.

Today is the Patriots' second of three practice days this week before a break over the weekend. The team practiced on the game field at Gillette Stadium in the snow, where nearly a foot is expected to come down between Thursday and Friday.

The Patriots practiced in full pads.
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
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.

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.

Patriots rule out WR Boyce for Sunday

December, 20, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As expected, the New England Patriots have ruled rookie receiver Josh Boyce out for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens due to an ankle injury.

Boyce, the team’s primary kickoff returner who had taken on an expanded role at receiver the past two weeks because of injuries to others, had not practiced all week after injuring the ankle in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins. Running back LeGarrette Blount and safety Devin McCourty are top candidates to take over the kickoff return duties.

At receiver, reinforcements appear to be coming in the form of rookie receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), both of whom are questionable but have their best chance to suit up since sustaining their injuries. Dobson, who has missed the past three games, said Thursday that he thinks he has a chance to play. He’s been limited in practice all week, his first full week of practice since leaving the team’s Nov. 24 win over the Denver Broncos in the second half. Thompkins has also been limited all week after injuring his hip Dec. 1 against Houston.

Elsewhere, starting left tackle Nate Solder is questionable with a concussion. He was not present at Wednesday’s practice before he was limited in Thursday’s and Friday’s practices.


Solder, Boyce missing from practice

December, 18, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After leaving Sunday's game with his second head injury in as many weeks, Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder was not spotted at the start of the team's practice on Wednesday morning.

Solder was forced to depart the Week 15 game in Miami early in the fourth quarter after appearing to be kicked or kneed, according to head coach Bill Belichick.

In his place, the Patriots kicked left guard Logan Mankins out to the left tackle spot and used rookie Josh Kline in Mankins' normal spot.

During his morning news conference Wednesday, Belichick indicated an update on Solder's injury would come via the team's practice report later this afternoon.

It's the second straight Wednesday practice that Solder has missed, as he sat out last week's as well as he recovered from the concussion suffered in Week 14. He practiced on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday and underwent a pregame workout on Sunday, indicating he was a true game-time decision.

Rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce, who left Sunday's game with what appeared to be a right foot or ankle injury, was also absent for the media portion of the practice. He posted four catches in the defeat, a career high.

The Patriots had perfect attendance otherwise at practice, including rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), who have missed the past three and two games, respectively.

Dobson returned to practice last Friday on a limited basis but did not travel with the team to Miami. Thompkins, meanwhile, has been limited in practice since suffering a Week 13 injury against the Texans.

The Patriots practiced in shells and helmets on the game field at Gillette Stadium, which has the same surface -- field turf -- as they'll play on this Sunday in Baltimore. The team may also have moved the practice inside the stadium due to the snow on the practice fields, which they may not have been able to remove in time for practice.

While it was chilly in Foxborough this morning, temperatures call for nearly 70 degrees on Sunday in Baltimore with a roughly 50 percent chance of rain.

Josh Boyce breaks through for Patriots

December, 11, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie receiver Josh Boyce, whom the Patriots selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft right before the Dolphins were prepared to do so, is coming off his most productive week with the team.

The story of the Dolphins' interest is timely to revisit as the Patriots prepare for a trip to Miami, a game which comes after Boyce received his most extensive playing time (72 snaps) in a fill-in role for injured rookies Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip).

Boyce, who had played a total of 71 snaps all season up to last Sunday's 27-26 win over the Browns, finished with three catches for 49 yards while also serving as the team's primary kickoff returner. He also was named one of the team's practice players of the week, an honor given to those who are deemed to have best prepared the Patriots in the days leading up to a win (he probably played the role of Josh Gordon).

"Josh is a smart guy who works hard," coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday when asked what traits/skills Boyce has going for him other than his notable speed. "He definitely has some position flexibility -- he knows a lot of assignments, different positions -- he's a versatile guy. He's always ready to go. On the scout team, he plays the other team's best receiver, that type of thing, and he gets a lot of balls in some of those weeks in practice. You can see him getting better on the practice field, which has eventually here led to some playing time -- in the kicking game first, then offensively. He's been able to, to a certain degree, take the ball and run with it.

"There's a long way to go here, but it's certainly progress and positive results that have shown up now for a couple weeks."

Progress report: Rookies chip in

November, 7, 2013
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):

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.

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.

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.

Boyce, Barker added to inactives

October, 20, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The big news relating to the New England Patriots' Week 7 inactives is that tight end Rob Gronkowski is not one of them, as he'll make his season debut for the team today.

After already declaring five players as out for today's game, there were just two players to add to the inactive list.

As it turns out, the Patriots have decided to deactivate wide receiver Josh Boyce and guard Chris Barker.

Below is a full list of the Patriots' inactives:

WR Danny Amendola
OG Chris Barker
WR Josh Boyce
DT Tommy Kelly
CB Aqib Talib
RB Leon Washington
DB Tavon Wilson
Quick-hit thoughts: Besides Gronkowski, the Patriots also return Matthew Slater, their special-teams captain and an ace coverage player. He last played in Week 2 against the Jets, during which he broke his wrist. Boyce will sit for the second straight week, which may mean more playing time for veteran Austin Collie, signed recently. With Gronkowski active, the Patriots have one more critical pass catcher active. As for Barker, the fact that he is sitting likely means good news for both Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon, each of whom was questionable for today's game. Barker could have dressed if the team felt there was a need to provide insurance for either player as they work through injuries.

For the Jets, the team will be without wide receiver Santonio Holmes once again. Below is their full inactives list:

OT Oday Aboushi
OG William Campbell
LB Troy Davis
WR Santonio Holmes
OT Ben Ijalana
QB Brady Quinn
WR Greg Salas

Predictions: Who'll be Brady's top targets?

September, 4, 2013
Patriots WRsJim Rogash/Getty ImagesWho among this group will earn Tom Brady's trust as a top target?
Tom Brady will take the field Sunday without his top five pass-catchers from last season (assuming Rob Gronkowski is out), a storyline that’s been followed closely during training camp and the preseason.

Among his targets are five rookies, a new slot receiver with big shoes to fill and few familiar faces.

Still, with Brady at quarterback, you can bet the yardage and touchdowns will pile up. But who will be on the receiving end? More than any season in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach, that answer is difficult to project.

So we asked our two Patriots reporters to take a crack at it. Here’s how they see it playing out:

Based on numbers from previous seasons, we’re projecting Brady to throw for 4,700 yards with 400 completions and 35 touchdown passes. How will those stats be distributed among individual pass-catchers?

Reiss' breakdown: If it works out like this, it’s a reflection of a successful passing game because the production is well distributed. I would have put Amendola over the 100-catch mark if there was a guarantee he’d be on the field for 16 games. So I played it a little conservatively with him, even though I think he’s primed for a big season. Had the weighted scale on Gronkowski given his health and projecting he might only play 10-14 games. Thompkins looks ready to emerge as the team’s No. 2 or 3 receiver over rookies Boyce and Dobson, so he lands higher on the list. Vereen could have a Kevin Faulk-presence in the passing game from the running back spot.


After Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, who among these players will be Tom Brady's top target?


Discuss (Total votes: 7,271)

Yates' breakdown: Just how do the Patriots overcome the loss of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd?

It starts with the addition of Amendola, who should have a Welker-like season. The kicker for Amendola is playing 16 games, and we’ll stick by our summer prediction of him achieving that mark while surpassing the 110-catch plateau.

On Gronkowski, while a Week 1 return has effectively been ruled out, a late September reappearance looks more likely. We’re projecting at least 13 games played for the big tight end, with Sudfeld expected to hold the fort in the interim. The difference between this year’s passing game and last’s is the emergence of a more reliable three-receiver set, as Thompkins and Edelman have what it takes to support Amendola in “11” personnel groupings.

4,700 yards would be no small accomplishment for this turned-over receiving corps, but part of what it lost in experience it gained in dynamic run-after-catch ability. That was an area that Lloyd provided little in throughout much of the 2012 season, but Thompkins and Edelman should enhance.

Your turn: How would you distribute the Patriots' catches (400), receiving yards (4,700) and touchdown catches (35)? Share your predictions in the comments section. At the end of the season, we’ll recognize the reader who was closest to the actual numbers.

What we learned from Pats coaches' calls

September, 3, 2013
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels held conference calls this afternoon.

From a “what we learned” perspective heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Bills, here are some highlights:

1. Bills’ defense has Jet-like feel: As one would expect with coordinator Mike Pettine moving from the Jets to the Bills this year, Buffalo’s defense looks “a lot like the Jets,” according to Belichick. That means a lot of different looks (especially on third down, when a defensive lineman could play a linebacker-type role), multiple fronts, and a heavy percentage of blitzing. So as Patriots offensive players prepare this week, they are marrying two areas: Bills personnel that they’ve come to know in recent years playing a Jet-like scheme.

2. Scouting report on Mulligan: Asked about signing 28-year-old tight end Matthew Mulligan to the 53-man active roster, Belichick cited his experience and blocking ability before saying, “he’s a tough, physical player.”

3. A lot of no-huddle on offense from Bills: There is an element of unknown with any season opener, which Belichick repeated multiple times, but one thing the Patriots are most certainly expecting from the Bills is the no-huddle attack. “It’s really all no-huddle,” Belichick said of what he’s seen from the Bills’ offense, later adding the Bills’ fast pace on offense draws some similarities to the Eagles under Chip Kelly which the Patriots practiced against in August. Another point Belichick made was that there isn’t a lot of NFL-based film for the team to watch of Bills rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel.

4. Pleased with Talib’s presence. Patricia, the defensive coordinator, said he is “very, very happy” with cornerback Aqib Talib’s work ethic and approach. The Patriots acquired Talib last November, so as time has passed, coaches have had a longer look at Talib's integration into the team’s system and way of doing business. “He really practices hard and competes every day,” Patricia said. “He’s a good example out on the field for those guys that are coming into our program to get behind and follow along.”

5. Young receivers have grasped multiple roles. It is often said that the Patriots' complex offensive system can be tough for rookies to pick up, so it was notable that Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator, said that receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Aaron Dobson (second round) have all grasped multiple positions. "We've already moved them and played multiple roles with them, multiple positions with them," he said. "In our system, that's a really big 'plus' for us to have some flexibility with those guys. They've shown that they'll work and study on the mental side of the game to be able to be flexible and play in multiple spots when we need them to."

Quick-hit thoughts on Pats and NFL

September, 1, 2013
Quick-hit thoughts on the NFL and the New England Patriots:

1. The Patriots kept just two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, marking the fourth time in the past five years they have done so. How does that compare to the other teams in the NFL? By my count, here is the breakdown for 2013 after Saturday’s cut-downs:

Four quarterbacks: three teams
Three quarterbacks: 15 teams
Two quarterbacks: 14 teams

The next step that will be interesting to monitor is how many of the 14 teams with just two quarterbacks add a third to their practice squad.

2. With all seven draft choices making the Patriots’ initial roster, plus five undrafted players, that initially gives the club 12 of its 51 spots filled by rookies. Add in six draft picks from last year still on the roster, plus 2012 undrafted running back Brandon Bolden, and that’s 19 players within their first two years in the NFL (35 percent of a 53-man roster). The Patriots have a solid veteran core, and trend older at some positions (defensive tackle, for example), but all in all, this is a very young team.

3. Let’s play the armchair-general-manager game for the Patriots when it comes to their defensive tackle need and see if we can hit the bull's-eye. Here were a few players at the position we could envision being of interest to the Patriots on the waiver wire:

Marvin Austin (Giants): The second-round pick out of North Carolina in 2011 hasn’t panned out, as his rookie season was wiped out by a torn pectoral muscle and he didn't break through last year. He is 6-foot-2 and 312 pounds. As ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano noted, the Giants are pretty deep at defensive tackle, so part of Austin’s release was a numbers game.

[+] EnlargeMarvin Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesMarvin Austin, a second-round pick in 2011 who never found a groove with the Giants, could help New England at defensive tackle.
Kheeston Randall (Dolphins): The 6-foot-5, 309-pounder who played collegiately at Texas appeared in 12 games for Miami last season. He was a 2012 seventh-round pick and has some physical traits (e.g. long arms) that might have some appeal to New England.

Adam Replogle (Falcons): The undrafted rookie is 6-3 and 310 pounds, and started the final 47 games of his collegiate career at Indiana, where he was known for his work ethic and reliability. Patriots defensive line coach Patrick Graham had worked him out before the draft.

Torell Troup (Bills): He has battled injuries in the past but has some physical traits (6-3, 327) that could be appealing as a bigger-bodied backup to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Bill Belichick got to know him well on his annual pre-draft scouting trip in 2010. Troup, who played at Central Florida, was picked by the Bills in the second round that year. He has some partially guaranteed money in his contract, so it might be smarter, if interested, for the Patriots to see if he clears waivers and then bring him in.

4. While the Patriots are extremely thin at defensive tackle, which they figure to address with one of their open roster spots, it led us to check in on former New England tackles Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick in Jacksonville. Both made the Jaguars’ initial 53-man roster and are backups to Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, who were signed as unrestricted free agents this offseason. Deaderick missed the first two games of the preseason with a groin injury, but is now healthy. Looking back, it’s only natural to wonder if the Patriots have any regret in parting ways with Love and Deaderick, as they created a void without having the reinforcements in place. In fairness, they were counting on Armond Armstead to play an integral role, but he later landed on the reserve/non-football illness list (he’s out at least the first six weeks of the season) after undergoing surgery for an infection.

4b. One more check-in: Patriots 2009 second-round draft choice Ron Brace didn’t make the initial 53-man roster with the Redskins. Given the depth questions at defensive tackle, would the Patriots consider bringing him back? Our guess: They probably look elsewhere.

5. Given the makeup of their initial roster -- with six receivers, five running backs, one fullback and three tight ends (one of whom, Rob Gronkowski, won’t be ready for the season opener) -- the Patriots figure to trend more toward three-receiver and two-back sets than multiple-tight-end packages early in the season. So while this is a team that has a reputation as a two-tight-end offense, which goes back to 2011 with the dynamic duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the early part of this season is likely to have a different look. For the Sept. 8 opener at Buffalo, the three-receiver grouping might turn out to be the best matchup anyway, as the Bills are hurting at cornerback and it could hit their stress points from a depth perspective.

6. With Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore, and Von Miller facing a six-game suspension to open the year, what’s left for the Broncos at defensive end? The free-agent signing of veteran Shaun Phillips looks more significant now, as Denver will count on him to help fill the void along with Derek Wolfe (2012 second-round pick out of Cincinnati) and Malik Jackson (2012 fifth-round pick out of Tennessee). One lingering question is if the Broncos will be able to generate enough pass rush. As for Phillips, he jumped to the Broncos after spending the first nine years of his career with the Chargers, putting him in almost the same position as linebacker Daryl Smith, who signed with the Ravens after spending the first nine years of his career with the Jaguars. Both are stepping into important roles -- Phillips helping fill the Miller void and Smith part of the puzzle to account for Ray Lewis’ absence -- which is a neat storyline for the Denver/Baltimore NFL season opener.

7. When it comes to the Patriots’ rookie receivers, I think the pace of their progression goes in the reverse order of how they arrived: Undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins is furthest along, followed by speedy fourth-round pick Josh Boyce (Texas Christian) and then second-rounder Aaron Dobson (Marshall). The thought occurred to me as Thompkins was given the veteran treatment in the second half of Thursday's preseason finale, watching from the sideline as Boyce and Dobson were still on the field playing.

8. With news that the Bills signed center Eric Wood to a long-term contract extension, it served as a reminder that he was a player I believe the Patriots had targeted as one of their ideal choices in the 2009 draft. That was the year the team traded down twice -- from 23 (Michael Oher) to 26 (Clay Matthews) to 34, where they selected safety Patrick Chung. Had Wood been on the board at 34, I think he would have received strong consideration. Had they stuck at 26, maybe they would have taken him there. Not that the Patriots are currently hurting at center, as Ryan Wendell has developed into a solid starter, but there was a lot of smoke around the Patriots and Wood that year.

9. The Raiders did what I thought the Patriots might by keeping two punters on their initial 53-man roster, as they view both Chris Kluwe and Marquette King as assets. The thinking, it appears, is that maybe the Raiders could trade one of them for a draft pick, although it's hard to imagine that unfolding. As for New England, rookie Ryan Allen was so impressive that the Patriots didn’t think he would clear waivers so they could bring him back on the practice squad (I thought that maybe by waiting a week or two, it would have a better chance of happening). So instead of keeping two, they just kept Allen and said goodbye to Zoltan Mesko, who should be punting somewhere in the NFL this season. He didn’t lose the job as much as Allen won it.

10. Patriots players return to the practice field today and tomorrow. They were off Saturday, as owner Robert Kraft hosted his annual before-the-season party for players and their families on Cape Cod. The Patriots will also practice Monday, before a day off Tuesday.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on today's roster moves by the Patriots:

1. The team now has 77 players on the roster. Two more moves must be made by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

2. Tim Tebow survives ... for now. This is one of the notable storylines of the week, as it appears that Tebow is fighting for a job. Bill Belichick told 98.5 The Sports Hub before last Thursday's preseason game that he had about 80 percent of the 53-man roster set. Tebow, based on his performance in the preseason, would seemingly be part of the other 20 percent, which means Thursday night's preseason finale against the Giants could be big for him.

3. None of the moves are a surprise. A player like veteran linebacker Niko Koutouvides, whose primary contributions come as a core special-teamer, could always return during the season if the need arises (similar to last year).

4. With defensive tackle Armond Armstead landing on the reserve/non-football illness list, he isn't eligible to start practicing until after the sixth week of the season. So this adds a little more context as to where things stand with his health after he had surgery for an infection at some point before training camp. He remains under contract to the Patriots but won't count against the roster. The Patriots had been counting on Armstead to be a big part of their plans and depth remains thin behind starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.

5. Rookie defensive tackle Cory Grissom (South Florida) was a strong practice squad candidate, but with him landing on injured reserve, it opens the door for another rookie tackle to stick on the practice squad (Joe Vellano, Anthony Rashad White the top candidates). It also led to the re-signing of defensive tackle Scott Vallone to the roster to address a depth shortage.

6. At receiver, third-year player Kamar Aiken was competitive early in camp but an injury derailed him. Also, rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce seemed to generate more momentum and were a bit more consistent over the course of camp.

7. We didn't have offensive tackle/guard Markus Zusevics making the final roster, but others did, which reflected his standing as a bubble blocker around No. 8 on the depth chart. There seems to be a pretty big drop-off after the top six or seven offensive linemen so this remains an area the Patriots figure to explore on the waiver wire and free agency.