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With Dont'a Hightower out for Patriots, door could open for Jon Bostic

INDIANAPOLIS -- The New England Patriots have already ruled linebacker Dont'a Hightower (ribs) and rookie defensive end Trey Flowers (shoulder/knee) out for Sunday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts. That means there are five more players who must be declared inactive by 90 minutes before kickoff.

With Hightower out, it increases the likelihood Jon Bostic could be active for the first time since the Patriots acquired him in a trade with the Chicago Bears on Sept. 29.

When Hightower injured his ribs in the first quarter of last Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys, eight-year veteran Jerod Mayo (season-high 29 snaps) and fourth-year player Jonathan Freeny (season-high 25 snaps) shared Hightower's responsibilities as the No. 2 and/or No. 3 options alongside top linebacker Jamie Collins. Sunday night, Bostic would add another layer of depth.

The shake-up at linebacker is one of the notable aspects of the weekly exercise of projecting the inactive players for the Patriots (in addition to Hightower and Flowers):

S Tavon Wilson -- The fourth-year safety hasn't played this season, as he's No. 6 on a deep depth chart, with rookie Jordan Richards and core special-teamer Nate Ebner ahead of him. One scenario in which that could change Sunday is if safety Devin McCourty plays more at cornerback given the team's shortage there (and in that case, Rashaan Melvin would be the candidate to be inactive).

DE Rufus Johnson -- A first-year player out of Tarleton State, he was active for one game this season (at Buffalo, Sept. 20), as he's in a similar situation to Wilson in that he's part of a stocked depth chart.

DT Khyri Thornton -- The Patriots have four big-bodied defensive tackles in Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Akiem Hicks and Malcom Brown, and in a game where the Colts figure to spread things out and put the Patriots in sub packages, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Thornton fills a role that doesn't figure to be a prominent part of the plan.

WR Aaron Dobson -- The third-year player from Marshall was inactive last Sunday, as Keshawn Martin was chosen over him. Martin seemed to account well for himself and also adds more value on special teams.

G Tre' Jackson -- If the Patriots stick with their plan of going into games with just seven offensive linemen, which is the norm, something has to give if veteran Ryan Wendell makes his debut after missing the first four games with an undisclosed illness. Wendell's veteran savvy could be more important Sunday night as the line adjusts to life without injured left tackle Nate Solder.