<
>

Projecting Pats' inactives vs. Dolphins

The Patriots will take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and a division title would come along with a win. The team won't be at full strength, however, as a number of players are banged up and their status for Sunday looks shaky. Taking into account both injuries and depth, here's a projection of the seven players who will be inactive for the Patriots:

Tight end Rob Gronkowski

Reason: Health

Quick-hit: There's no mystery involved here, as Gronkowski continues to recover from a broken forearm suffered in Week 11.

Guard Logan Mankins

Reason: Health

Quick-hit: After missing practice all week (calf/ankle), Mankins will miss his fifth game in 2012. Count on Donald Thomas to earn another start in his place.

Defensive end Chandler Jones

Reason: Health

Quick-hit: Jones, like Mankins and Gronk, did not participate in practice this week, and he will not return to action this Sunday from a Week 11 ankle injury.

Offensive lineman Markus Zusevics

Reason: Depth

Quick-hit: After being activated to the 53-man roster just before the game against the Jets last Thursday, Zusevics was among the Patriots' inactives that night. Look for the same to hold true this week.

Cornerback Marquice Cole

Reason: Depth

Quick-hit: With Kyle Arrington now serving in a nickel cornerback role and Aqib Talib providing special teams value, Cole could once again sit this week. Derrick Martin would likely be called upon if a fourth cornerback is needed.

Defensive end Jake Bequette

Reason: Development

Quick-hit: Even with Jermaine Cunningham suspended, Bequette may still sit. Remember, the Patriots have dressed only two tight ends and four wide receivers in previous games, and may roll with just three natural defensive ends this weekend: Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott and Justin Francis.

Fullback James Develin

Reason: Depth

Quick-hit: The Patriots have run the ball just fine without a fullback in 2012, so it's not a stretch to think they'll opt to play without one again this week. Though Develin also provides special teams value, the Patriots have a strong core of special teamers with a similar skill set.