Chris Hogan

With Hogan down, what's next for Patriots at receiver?

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With Hogan down, what's next for Patriots at receiver?

The Patriots have been dealt yet another blow on the injury front, it appears. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Chris Hogan is not expected to play against the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. Hogan made the trip to Pittsburgh, but he's still dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out for four games following the bye week. 

Hogan returned to action on Monday night against the Dolphins and was targeted five times, catching one for one yard. He played 55 snaps, taking over the No. 2 receiver role and keeping Phillip Dorsett (zero snaps versus Miami) on the sidelines. 

For the Patriots, not having Hogan against the Steelers stings because he had nine catches for 180 yards and two scores in the AFC title game in January. 

What do the Patriots do if Hogan can't go? The answers shouldn't be all that hard to find. They just spent a month without him. But the acquisition of Kenny Britt, which went down earlier in the week, complicates things a tad. 

From Weeks 10 through 13, Dorsett played an average of 42 snaps -- second only to Brandin Cooks at his position. But for all the work Dorsett saw, Brady threw only three passes his way in four weeks. 

Asking Britt to take on a heavy workload would be asking a lot. The Patriots practiced with Britt three times this week, but one was a walkthrough. The team did as much as it could to get Britt caught up on the week's game plan, but how he works with Brady and the rest of the offense in a game situation remains to be seen. 

The Britt situation, in some situations, mirrors what went on with Michael Floyd and the Patriots last season. Floyd was claimed off of waivers on Dec. 15 last year. He played nine days later against the Jets and caught one of two targets for six yards. 

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Britt is able to play and see extensive action against the Steelers five days after being signed, but he would've blown the Floyd timeline out of the water. 

Though he doesn't have the familiarity with the offense that Dorsett does, Britt's size and physicality could make him an immediate option against a secondary that has openly admitted this week it plans to get its hands on Patriots pass-catchers. He's a more viable option in that kind of game than someone like Dorsett, who relies on his speed more so than his ability to win battles at the line of scrimmage. 

The Patriots should feast on Steelers linebackers in coverage in this game with running backs Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White. Rob Gronkowski will also be a focal point as he returns off of his one-week suspension.

With Hogan out, now maybe Britt can get into the mix as well.  

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Patriots check-up: Chris Hogan will give it a go; Trey Flowers ruled out

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Patriots check-up: Chris Hogan will give it a go; Trey Flowers ruled out

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Chris Hogan made his way to South Florida with the Patriots on Sunday. And not to watch. 

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense have gone without Hogan since he injured his shoulder late in a Week 8 win over the Chargers. It's unclear how much he'll play, but after four practices this week in Foxboro, he's going to give it a go Monday night against the Dolphins. 

Earlier in the week, we went into some detail on how Hogan could help the Patriots offense if he's able to go. With Rob Gronkowski suspended, Hogan could serve as a valuable red-zone target. 

Hogan's return could also have an impact on the workload issued to his teammates. Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola's snap-counts have been relatively unchanged with Hogan out, but Phillip Dorsett has taken on the No. 2 receiver role in terms of play-count since Week 8. In four games since Hogan's injury, Dorsett has averaged 42 snaps per game.

Here's a quick look at how the Patriots may be impacted by some of the injuries they're dealing with . . . 

Marcus Cannon, Kyle Van Noy, Trey Flowers ruled out: Cannon's ankle injury will hold him out yet another week, leaving the right-tackle duties to LaAdrian Waddle (more on him later) or Cam Fleming. Van Noy's absence could be a difficult one for the Patriots. He has handled the hybrid end-slash-linebacker duties once held by Dont'a Hightower, and he's emerged as a leader of the New England front-seven. Without him, the Patriots become thinner at both the edge and the second-level. Players like Eric Lee (57 snaps against the Bills last weekend), Elandon Roberts (49), David Harris (25) and Marquis Flowers (35) can all expect a busy day with Van Noy unavailable. Trey Flowers will miss his second consecutive game with a ribs injury. Special-teamer Brandon King (hamstring) has also been ruled out.

Issues on the edge: Injuries to Van Noy and Flowers aren't the only issues the Patriots have on the edge. Deatrich Wise (foot) came into the weekend listed as questionable. He only managed to get onto the field for one practice this week. The Patriots have been perilously thin at defensive end all season -- the Derek Rivers injury, Rob Ninkovich retirement and Kony Ealy release had something to do with that -- and are facing a situation where they may have to go deep into their bench just to man the position. If Wise is at all limited, Bill Belichick could be forced to turn to Lee and Geneo Grissom -- both of whom were practice-squad players just a few weeks ago. Rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler could also potentially bump outside; the Patriots worked him there throughout training camp. 

Waddle improving, still questionable: Waddle worked out prior to the Bills game but was deemed unable to go. His ankle injury has improved steadily since then, however. While it's not certain he'll play, he'll have a better shot at getting back onto the field than he did a week ago. Waddle was injured in the fourth quarter of his team's win over the Dolphins in Week 12. Whoever is playing right tackle for the Patriots, whether it's Waddle or Fleming, will have his hands full. Dolphins pass-rusher Cameron Wake typically lines up on that side. 

Something going around the running backs room: Mike Gillislee (illness) was ruled out on Sunday night. He missed Saturday's practice with an illness one day after Dion Lewis missed a practice due to illness. Lewis practiced on Saturday and is expected to be ready for Monday night. Gillislee has been a healthy game-day scratch since the Week 9 bye. 

Brady off injury report, Van Noy out

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Brady off injury report, Van Noy out

Tom Brady and cornerback Malcolm Butler were taken off the Patriots final injury report of the week before their Monday night game in Miami.

Brady, bothered by an Achilles injury the past few weeks, missed back-to-back practices earlier in the week but practiced Friday and in the snow with the other healthy Patriots on Saturday in Foxboro.

Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon is again out, as is linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Wide receiver Chris Hogan is among the 11 Patriots listed as questionable but practiced all week and is expected to play.

The Patriots' Saturday injury report: 

OUT: OL Marcus Cannon (ankle), LB Kyle Van Noy (calf)

QUESTIONABLE: LB Marquis Flowers (knee), DL Trey Flowers (rib), CB Stephon Gilmore (ankle), RB Mike Gillislee (illness), WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), RB Dion Lewis (illness), DB Brandon King (hamstring), CB Eric Rowe (groin), WR Matthew Slater (hamstring), OT LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), DE Deatrich Wise (foot)