Sunday, November 22, 2009

Neal, Green among Patriots' inactives

His name doesn't show up on the stat sheet all that often, but Stephen Neal might be the most significant of the Patriots' inactives against the Jets. The veteran right guard has been the best at his position in the NFL so far this season -- he's at his best as a run-blocker, but he's allowed just two sacks and one hit on the quarterback all season, too.

He'll be replaced by Dan Connolly, who allowed one quarterback pressure and drew negative ratings for his play in place of Neal against Indianapolis a week ago.

Sammy Morris, too, remains inactive with a knee injury. It'll be the fourth straight game Morris has missed -- and his physical running style is something the Patriots could have used in their short-yardage situations against Indianapolis a week ago. Some had expected Morris to return based on his participation in practice this week, but he'll instead spend the afternoon in street clothes.

The Patriots' defense, though, received some good news: Both Tully Banta-Cain and Ty Warren are active despite injuries that limited them in practice this week. Banta-Cain didn't practice at all until Friday thanks to the groin injury that knocked him out in the first quarter against the Colts, and Warren missed the Colts game with an ankle injury.

The rotation along the defensive line will be interesting to watch: Warren is and has always been a starter, but the Patriots seem to be liking the play of rookie Myron Pryor more and more. It wouldn't be surprising to see Pryor, Wilfork and Warren all on the field at the same time in a 3-4 scheme -- or for Pryor and Wilfork to play together at defensive tackle with Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess flanking them.

One moderate surprise: Veteran cornerback Shawn Springs participated fully in practice all week and was listed as probable on the injury report, a sign a player is almost certainly going to play. The scratch might or might not be related to injury -- and it might be a sign of how far down on the depth chart Springs has fallen in the Patriots' defensive backfield.

Springs had his worst game of the season against Miami two weeks ago and was not active against Indianapolis. He's also not going to contribute as much on special teams as the younger and faster Terrence Wheatley, another possible reason for the decision.

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