Shifting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones and linebacker Harvey Langi to injured reserve this week gave the New England Patriots two open spots on their 53-man roster.
So, how should they use them?
One could go to offensive tackle Trent Brown, who now is eligible to return from injured reserve. It’s unclear, though, whether the Patriots plan to activate Brown this week. A calf injury has sidelined him since the opening drive of Week 1.
Among other internal options, offensive lineman James Ferentz seems like a strong candidate for permanent promotion from the practice squad, as he’s now out of temporary elevations.
Ferentz was elevated for the last three games (one as a COVID-19 replacement), starting two at left guard and playing 16 snaps at right guard in the other. The Patriots evidently view him as a better interior reserve than tackle/guard Yasir Durant, who was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s 54-13 win over the New York Jets.
All other Patriots practice squadders have at least one gameday elevation remaining. New England currently has no linebackers on its practice squad and just one cornerback: slot/safety hybrid D’Angelo Ross, who has yet to appear in a regular-season NFL game.
Fellow slot/safety Myles Bryant was promoted to the 53 last week to fill out a thinning position group. The Patriots are light at corner after trading Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers and losing Jones to a season-ending shoulder injury. Bryant, Jones’ primary replacement in the slot, recorded a sack and forced a fumble against the Jets.
Langi suffered a knee injury — reportedly an MCL sprain — Sunday after starting in place of injured linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots also could choose to activate either quarterback Jarrett Stidham or defensive tackle Byron Cowart off the physically unable to perform list. Both began practicing last week and would revert to season-ending PUP if not added to the roster by Nov. 10. Linebacker Terez Hall also is eligible to come off PUP, but he has yet to practice.
Of course, New England also could fill these spots with external additions, and it recently hosted a number of free agents for workouts. Last week, they worked out cornerbacks Brian Poole, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Hayden. On Tuesday, they brought in three lesser-known players: running back Rodney Smith, offensive tackle Casey Tucker and guard Willie Wright.
The Patriots are not required to fill these spots and could opt to keep one or both vacant to account for any potential acquisitions ahead of next Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. The Pats also have one opening on their 16-man practice squad after cutting safety Elijah Benton on Tuesday.
After improving to 3-4 with their rout of the Jets, the Patriots will visit the 4-2 Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday.