The Patriots are making their final preparations for Sunday's do-or-die matchup with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium and are tinkering with an injured secondary.
New England has placed fourth-round selection Jack Jones on injured reserve, ending his regular season. The Pats rookie cornerback has missed the last two games with a knee injury he suffered early on against the Cardinals in Week 14. Following back-to-back games with interceptions earlier in the year, Jones has shown promise with his man coverage and ball-hawking skills but ends his first season early.
In a corresponding roster move, the Patriots signed cornerback Tae Hayes from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to take Jones's spot. Hayes started the season with the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Pats practice squad this week. The 5-foot-9 Hayes played mostly outside corner in Carolina and didn't allow a catch in 16 coverage snaps.
Along with signing Hayes to the active roster, the team also elevated DB Quandre Mosely and TE Matt Sokol to the active roster from the practice squad. Mosley is an intriguing size-speed rookie who went undrafted out of Kentucky. At 6-2, 185 pounds, some scouts clocked Mosely with a 4.32-second 40-yard dash and a 36-inch vertical. He has traits to play on the outside and enough speed to track Miami's explosive wide receiver duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Mosely signed with the practice squad on December 22 and has yet to appear in an NFL game.
The Patriots have already ruled out rookie game-breaker Marcus Jones (concussion), and CB Jalen Mills (groin) is questionable for Sunday's game, while first-year corner Jack Jones is now on IR.
With Saturday's roster moves, the Patriots now have Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade, Hayes, and Mosely healthy in the secondary. Ideally, Mills can give them something this week to form a three-corner combination of Jon Jones, Bryant, and Mills. However, Wade, Hayes, or Mosely could play significant snaps if Mills cannot play.
As for Sokol, this is the 2019 undrafted free agent's second standard elevation of the season after appearing in New England's win over the Lions in Week 5. Sokol didn't register any stats in eight offensive snaps and is up for this week's game due to a banged-up tight end room.
Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith will miss Sunday's contest due to a concussion, while tight end Hunter Henry is questionable with a knee injury he suffered when he collided with Smith downfield on the first third down of New England's loss to the Bengals a week ago. The Pats also placed tight end Scotty Washington on practice-squad injured reserve this week.
With bodies dropping like flies at the position, Sokol will ideally serve as a backup to Henry, who hopes to play through his knee injury, but could be thrust into action if Henry can't go. Ultimately, the Patriots would probably lean on 10-personnel or 20-personnel packages with four wide receivers or two running backs on the field rather than forcing Sokol into a significant role. Still, the Pats are hurting at tight end after Henry and Smith were injured against Cincinnati.
New England finds itself in a win-or-go-home scenario when they host the Dolphins. With a win, they are very much alive in the AFC playoff race, where back-to-back wins in the final two weeks of the season would clinch a playoff berth. However, if they lose this week, they're eliminated from postseason contention.
The Patriots welcome the Miami Dolphins to Gillette Stadium in a pivotal divisional matchup at 1 pm ET on Sunday.