Offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer and tight end Daniel Fells are expected to come off the physically unable to perform list this week, barring a late change, which was first reported by Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net.
A few quick-hit thoughts on how this might impact the composition of the team's final 53-man roster:
1. Vollmer should slide right into the starting right tackle spot, pushing Marcus Cannon into the top backup tackle role. Vollmer is the swing tackle, as he'd likely be the first option to move to left tackle in the event of injury to Nate Solder. It doesn't look like there would be another tackle on the roster, meaning the Patriots would likely keep 5-6 interior options for a total of 8-9 linemen.
2. The locks in that interior group include starting left guard Logan Mankins and starting center/right guard Dan Connolly, with fourth-year center/guard Ryan Wendell also appearing safe. That leaves center/guard/tackle Nick McDonald, guard Donald Thomas and center Dan Koppen for 2-3 possible spots, with McDonald's versatility potentially giving him an edge. All of this doesn't factor in the possibility of Brian Waters reporting to camp, which could further threaten someone like Thomas and Koppen for a spot.
3. The activation of Fells makes it all but a certainty that the club will carry three tight ends on the 53-man roster -- Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Fells. A player like fullback Spencer Larsen, who has missed most of training camp with injury, figures to be most affected by this. Also, by keeping three tight ends, it would seemingly make it less likely that the Patriots could absorb the possibility of seven receivers, meaning a big name at receiver -- potentially Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney or Donte' Stallworth -- could be squeezed out. Based on Branch's strong week of practice in his return to full-team work, it would be a surprise if he didn't make the cut.