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Inactive Analysis: Three Key Contributors Return to Patriots Offense vs. Jets on Sunday

Reinforcements are coming for the Patriots offense against their division rivals.

2022_InactiveAnalysis (8)

After placing two players on injured reserve earlier this week, the Patriots active roster is in good shape heading into Sunday's clash with the Jets.

New England will be without punter Jake Bailey and interior rusher Christian Barmore for at least the next four games. But is returning three key contributors on offense for a divisional rematch against New York at Gillette Stadium.

Starting center David Andrews, running back Damien Harris, and wide receiver DeVante Parker are officially active for the Patriots. Andrews returns after a two-game absence due to a concussion, while Harris (illness) and Parker (knee) each missed the Pats win over the Colts before the bye week.

With no other major surprises, the Patriots game day inactives are as follows: RB Kevin Harris, RB J.J. Taylor, DB Joshuah Bledsoe, DL Sam Roberts, and CB Shaun Wade.

Starting with the offensive line, the Patriots struggled without their leader in the middle in their last two games. Without Andrews, the Pats allowed a pressure rate of 39.3 and averaged just 3.6 yards per rush, while those numbers improved to a 28.2% pressure rate and 4.7 yards per rush with Andrews in the lineup.

The bigger question with Andrews's return is the configuration of the Pats five starters along the offensive line. The Patriots rolled with third-year OT Yodny Cajuste at right tackle and rookie Cole Strange at left guard to start the game in Week 9, but Isaiah Wynn replaced Strange. With a healthy group up front, our best guess at the starting five is LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Yodny Cajuste.

Although that's the likely starting five, the Pats experimented with Wynn back at left tackle at practice this week and could flip the tackles back to their 2021 positions. We'll also see how long a leash Strange has at left guard after he was pulled in back-to-back games for Wynn.

At wide receiver, Parker's return gives the Patriots offense more flexibility against a stingy Jets pass defense. Parker, a traditional X receiver, can hold down that role on the backside of the formation, giving rookie speedster Tyquan Thornton more freedom to move around. The zone-heavy Jets defense plays sides rather than traveling with receivers, so Parker's presence could also provide the Pats options to stay away from first-year star cornerback Sauce Gardner.

In the backfield, Harris's return will hopefully lighten the load on second-year standout Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson has played 75% of the offensive snaps in two games without Harris this season as New England's primary running back. Stevenson will still have a significant role in the offense, but Harris can contribute on early downs to keep him fresh.

After placing top punter Jake Bailey (back) on injured reserve on Saturday, the Patriots will turn to veteran punter Michael Palardy. Palardy punted in all 17 games for the Dolphins last season, has experience holding in the NFL, and could replace Bailey as the kickoff specialist.

The Patriots hope to improve their punt coverage, where Bailey ranks 31st in net average (35.3 yards), and the unit as a whole is 27th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric this season.

With major playoff implications as New England opens the second half of their season, the Patriots host the Jets with kickoff at 1 pm ET at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

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