Debut for Dobson. Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, the second-round pick who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, is set to make his debut. The Patriots have Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce and Dobson atop their receiver depth chart tonight. Also, safeties Duron Harmon (hamstring) and Nate Ebner (ankle) are dressed after not playing in the opener.
A feel for running back corps. With Shane Vereen on injured reserve/designated to return and Brandon Bolden (knee) inactive, it leaves Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington as the active running backs tonight. While Washington would project mostly to a "passing back" role, we wouldn't be surprised to see Ridley stay on the field on some third downs because of his standing as a capable pass protector. How Ridley responds after being benched last week is a big storyline to monitor.
No surprise on Amendola and Gronkowski. As noted Thursday morning, the expectation wasn't that receiver Danny Amendola or tight end Rob Gronkowski would play. On Amendola, we wrote, "Wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him before the Sept. 29 game at Atlanta." On Gronkowski, we wrote, "The first two games never seemed to be a realistic expectation for his return, but if things keep progressing, he might have a chance for the Sept. 22 game against the Buccaneers."
Hoomanawanui and Mulligan at tight end. With both Gronkowski and rookie Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) inactive, it leaves Michael Hoomanawanui and recently re-signed Matthew Mulligan at tight end. Mulligan is almost like an extra offensive lineman in terms of being more of a pure blocker. Hoomanwanui played a career-high 80 snaps in the season opener (including penalties) and delivered a key seal block on Vereen's big run to set up the game-winning field goal.