FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Analysis from the Patriots’ inactive players for the “Monday Night Football” matchup against the Texans:
Offensive line has its best. Starting left guard Logan Mankins is active for the first time since Nov. 11, and coupled with Dan Connolly (back injury) cleared for action at right guard, the Patriots can line up with their top players on the line. Considering the Texans have a powerful front, it couldn’t come at a better time.
Jones’ return bumps Bequette to sideline. With first-round draft choice Chandler Jones (right defensive end) returning to action for the first time since Nov. 18, it bumps third-round draft choice Jake Bequette to the inactive list. The Patriots had used Bequette as an interior rusher in sub packages last week in Miami, as part of a rotation to replace suspended end Jermaine Cunningham, and that role could now go to Trevor Scott or Justin Francis. Texans left tackle Duane Brown is one of the top players in the NFL at his position, so a Jones-Brown matchup could be a treat to watch, while Rob Ninkovich can move to the left side against Texans backup right tackle Ryan Harris.
Stallworth active for debut. Veteran receiver Donte’ Stallworth (No. 19) is active after re-signing with the team on Tuesday. The Patriots are thin at receiver after Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd atop the depth chart, and Stallworth could see reps as a No. 3 option if the Patriots call on that package.
Heavy on running backs and tight ends. With rookie running back Brandon Bolden having his suspension lifted and dressing tonight, and the Patriots going with four tight ends in Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe and Michael Hoomanawanui, this is unusual depth in those spots. Given the shortage at receiver, perhaps the tight ends and backs are a bigger part of the passing game this week.