The Patriots welcomed back one key veteran Tuesday, but also lost the services of another. Wide receiver Troy Brown was activated from the PUP list, but linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was placed on injured reserve.
The Patriots welcomed back one key veteran Tuesday, but also lost the services of another.
Wide receiver Troy Brown was activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in one of four transactions the club made. Brown's status was the biggest question going into the day as the Pats faced a deadline to either add him to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the season.
What was more surprising - and potentially very costly - was that the club helped create room on the roster for Brown by placing linebacker Rosevelt Colvin on injured reserve.
That ends the season for the valuable veteran, and puts a serious dent in the Pats' depth at linebacker.
The Pats did bring back veteran Chad Brown, who had been released in October, while waiving rookie defensive lineman Kareem Brown to keep the club at the 53-man limit with the addition of Troy Brown. Kareem Brown was a fourth-round pick out of Miami this year but was inactive for all 11 games. He could be brought back to the practice squad if he clears waivers, though the 23-year-old still possesses enough potential that another club could claim him.
Colvin was injured Sunday night against Philadelphia with what the team called a foot injury, though there was some question about the exact nature of the injury as trainers appeared to be working on his right arm.
"It was announced as a foot? Then we'll leave it with that announcement," said coach Bill Belichick when asked about the situation in Monday's press conference. "If that's what (we) announced, then we'll stand by that announcement."
But now the defense will be standing its ground without one of its key performers. Colvin, 30, was tied for second on the team with four sacks through 11 games, with the nine-year veteran also adding 28 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries (one returned for a TD) and an interception.
There were already questions about the club's speed at linebacker, with Colvin and free-agent addition Adalius Thomas providing the bulk of the quickness while Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel added plenty of veteran savvy.
Seau and Bruschi were particularly benefiting from the help of Thomas inside, as they were able to stay fresh in the three-man rotation. With Colvin gone, the versatile Thomas will likely have to spend more time on the outside, which could put a strain on Seau and Bruschi inside.
"Adalius is big, he's fast, he's an experienced guy that has played different positions in our defense and for the Ravens," said Belichick last week. "I think he has a good understanding of overall defensive concepts and adjustments and not only what he's doing but what other guys are supposed to do, because in a lot of cases he's played those other positions."
Thomas will have to play a variety of roles again, as the other options on defense aren't too appealing. Eric Alexander, Pierre Woods, special teams standout Larry Izzo and now Chad Brown are the only other linebackers on the roster.
Chad Brown, 36, is a three-time Pro Bowler, but the 15-year veteran struggled for playing time this year, appearing in only one game and making two special teams tackles.
The other possibility is to change the defensive scheme, going with more 4-3 looks instead of the base 3-4. That would put more packages of linemen Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Vince Wilfork all playing and lessen the strain on the depleted linebacking corps.
With the return of Troy Brown, depth certainly won't be a concern for the club at wide receiver. The 15-year vet who ranks first all-time in franchise history with 557 receptions and second with 6,366 receiving yards, becomes the seventh receiver on the roster.
Only three other teams in the NFL are carrying seven receivers, but with the Patriots offense's dependence on the pass this year, that depth may come in handy.
New England has used the running game sparingly since Sammy Morris was lost for the season with a chest injury in Week 6 against Dallas. On Sunday, the Pats attempted just 16 running plays while Tom Brady threw 54 passes. In the first half, Heath Evans' 1-yard TD plunge was the only designed rush attempt, while "starting" running back Laurence Maroney did not see action until the third quarter.
The short passing attack to Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney has in essence become New England's ground game, and adding another sure-handed receiver willing to haul in passes over the middle like Troy Brown can only help.
"Troy is a special guy, and he's done a lot to help this football team win a lot of games since I've been here and before that," said Belichick earlier this month when asked about Brown's status. "That's all well-respected and pretty well-documented, but at the same time this year is this year and we'll do what's best for the team this year. And he understands that - we all do."
Now, it's just a matter of figuring out what's best for a defense that must proceed without a key contributor in Colvin.