Patriots Depth Chart Reset: Akiem Hicks Taking On More Defined Role

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Akiem Hicks

Photo via Dec 20, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Akiem Hicks (72) reacts after recovering a fumble and returning for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick’s wheeling and dealing ways are paying off as injuries continue to ravage the New England Patriots’ roster.

Belichick acquired tight end Michael Williams, wide receiver Keshawn Martin and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in early-season trades. Williams and Martin have started in consecutive weeks, and Hicks has taken over the Patriots’ third-down interior pass-rushing role left vacant when Dominique Easley was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

The Patriots have seen an absurd amount of turnover this season as 20 players have hit IR. Check out how their latest depth chart shakes out:

QUARTERBACK
Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Patriots sign a quarterback to their practice squad to keep Brady and Garoppolo’s arms fresh. They signed Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad last December.

BIG BACK
Brandon Bolden, Steven Jackson
Jackson hasn’t supplanted Bolden as the starter yet, but it could be coming if the wily vet impresses with more reps.

SUB BACK
James White, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots would likely prefer White to offer more versatility, but he’s been solid as a pass-catching back.

WIDE RECEIVER
Julian Edelman (Z), Brandon LaFell (Z), Danny Amendola (slot), Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, Matthew Slater
Edelman and Amendola’s injuries have forced Martin and Harper to move up the depth chart. Martin responded well last week with seven receptions for 68 yards. With 23 catches for 265 yards with two scores, this is Martin’s most productive season as a pro.

TIGHT END
Rob Gronkowski, Michael Williams, Scott Chandler
Needless to say, Chandler hasn’t stepped up as many expected this season. He has just 23 catches for 259 yards with four touchdowns. Williams essentially is used as a sixth, and sometimes seventh, offensive lineman.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Sebastian Vollmer (LT), Josh Kline (LG), Bryan Stork (C), Tre’ Jackson (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Shaq Mason, David Andrews, LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming
Jackson has received more snaps than Mason in recent weeks. Kline likely will be back in the starting lineup when his shoulder injury is healed. Waddle came in over Fleming after Vollmer suffered an ankle injury Sunday. That could be because Fleming was being used as the eligible offensive lineman, however.

DEFENSIVE END
Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom, Dekoda Watson
Sheard has been more productive per snap than Jones and Ninkovich this season. Grissom has been unable to find a regular role.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Akiem Hicks, Sealver Siliga
Hicks has stepped into Dominique Easley’s old role as the Patriots’ interior third-down rusher.

LINEBACKER
Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny, Jerod Mayo, Darius Fleming, Jon Bostic, Brandon King
Freeny has sat out two consecutive games with a hand injury. Mayo has stepped up in his absence. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the third linebacker when Freeny is back.

CORNERBACK
Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Leonard Johnson, Justin Coleman, Troy Hill
Coleman outplayed Johnson in Week 16. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Coleman re-emerge as the Patriots’ slot cornerback at some point.

SAFETY
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
Harmon is the Patriots’ backup free safety while Richards stepped up in Chung’s absence in Week 16.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Slater, Ebner, Freeny, King, Bolden, Watson
The Patriots added Watson as Freeny continues to deal with a hand injury.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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