<
>

Chad Ochocinco among Pats inactives

PHILADELPHIA -- The New England Patriots will be without starting safety Patrick Chung (foot), starting cornerback Devin McCourty (shoulder), starting center Dan Connolly (groin) and receiver Chad Ochocinco, who apparently had his hamstring tighten up late in the week, for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The team announced the downgrades Saturday night, and Chung and McCourty are the most significant as they are two of the team's best defensive players. This will be the third straight game Chung misses, and the second straight for McCourty.

The Patriots are extremely thin at safety, where James Ihedigbo (5th year) and Sterling Moore (rookie) have started the last two weeks. Sergio Brown, who has fallen out of favor in recent weeks, is the third option on the depth chart.

Meanwhile, four-year veteran Antwaun Molden is likely to make his second straight start in place of McCourty at left cornerback. Molden's start Monday against the Chiefs was the first of his NFL career.

With Connolly out, the Patriots will turn to third-year player Ryan Wendell, who replaced Connolly during Monday's win and drew praise from coach Bill Belichick for his blocking on a screen pass.

This marks the first game Ochocinco will miss as a member of the Patriots. He was added to the injury report Friday after missing practice.

Ochocinco has been a disappointment this season after the Patriots traded two late-round draft choices to acquire him and then restructured his contract that included a $4.5 million signing bonus and $1.5 million base salary for 2011. He's served as the team's third receiver, playing sparingly behind Wes Welker and Deion Branch.

The Patriots have run the majority of their plans out of a two-tight end set, which has also contributed to Ochocinco's limited playing time. In the one game in which he played extensively, Sept. 25 at Buffalo, he dropped a long pass from Tom Brady late in the game that cost the Patriots valuable time to mount a comeback.

Ochocinco's absence opens the door for Taylor Price, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater to bump up the depth chart.

One final note: Starting left tackle Matt Light (right ankle) has made the trip and thus has a chance to suit up.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.