Analysis: Roles for Shiancoe, McCourty?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some thoughts on the Patriots inactive players for Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills.

No surprise on Hernandez. It came as little surprise that tight end Hernandez was declared out for today's action as he continues to recover from a right ankle injury in Week 2. His absence could open the door for some repetitions for recently activated tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. While it seems unlikely that Shiancoe would absorb the entirety of Hernandez's role, he looks primed to make his Patriots debut and could be a factor as both a pass catcher and blocker.

Mankins returns. For the first time since Week 6, Patriots guard Logan Mankins will be back in the starting lineup, as he's missed a pair of games while dealing with calf and hip issues. That provides a boost to an already strong Patriots offensive line. If the Patriots look to run the ball as they did against Buffalo in Week 4, don't be surprised to see running backs running just off the hip of Mankins early. The fact that he is active likely pushes Donald Thomas to a top reserve role, with Marcus Cannon and Nick McDonald also available for depth.

As does Gregory. Like Mankins, safety Steve Gregory (hip) is ready to return. Gregory last played back in Week 4 when he left the Patriots’ first contest against the Bills with a hip injury. With Gregory healthy, it brings up the question of how the team will use Devin McCourty. McCourty has platooned to safety is recent games with both Gregory and Patrick Chung out, but may return to his cornerback spot today. That would likely result in a starting safety pair of Gregory and rookie Tavon Wilson. With Gregory and cornerback Kyle Arrington (head) active, the Patriots have options aplenty in the secondary to mix and match personnel combinations.