The Patriots will be without one of their most electric rookies and their newest corer when they take on the Cardinals on Sunday night.
Inactive for Bill Belichick's club, in addition to tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Nate Solder and guard Jonathan Cooper, will be running back DJ Foster, tight end Clay Harbor, corner Eric Rowe and linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Without Harbor, the Patriots have made it clear how they see the pecking order at tight end. Should the team opt to utilize its 12 personnel -- with one back and two tight ends -- expect to see Martellus Bennett on the field with AJ Derby. The Patriots could also turn to some three-tight-end sets by using offensive tackle Cameron Fleming as a blocking tight end in jumbo packages. Fleming has taken well to that role in the past, and he was deployed as an eligible tight end several times during New England's preseason matchup with the Bears last month.
Rowe was acquired in a trade with the Eagles earlier this week when the Patriots sent a conditional draft pick to Philadelphia. Belichick has been willing to deploy newly-acquired corners on short notice in the past -- Leonard Johnson and Rashaan Melvin were examples of that willingness last season -- but perhaps Rowe has not caught on to the Patriots system quickly enough to contribute against Arizona's talented receiving corps.
The Patriots will have rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell active and in uniform for the first time since their preseason opener against the Saints. Mitchell dislocated his elbow in that game, and has been limited in practice since. He was listed as questionable coming into Sunday night. Also questionable for the prime-time game were linebacker Shea McClellin and defensive end Trey Flowers. Both were game-time decisions, but both will be available.
Receiver Danny Amendola, who was held out of preseason action and did not practice with the team until this week, will also be in uniform as expected.
Foster being listed as inactive comes as little surprise though he did have impressive performances in each of New England's final two preseason games. He is squarely behind LeGarrette Blount and James White on the depth chart, and Brandon Bolden offers more as a special teamer.