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Patriot Maven Notebook: Notable Practice Returns, Why Tavai? and More

Also, Pats kicker Nick Folk is chasing yet another milestone on Sunday in the October 14th edition of Patriot Maven Notebook.

The New England Patriots have now turned their full attention to Week Six and a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. From Thursday’s practice notes to a potential milestone, here are the latest Pats news and notes, courtesy of the Patriot Maven Notebook

Why Tavai?

On Wednesday, the Patriots announced the signing of linebacker Jahlani Tavai to the 53-man roster from their practice squad. The 25-year-old had been a member of New England's practice squad since his signing on September 2. He was elevated by New England to the active roster for the games against New Orleans and Tampa Bay and saw limited action on defense and special teams. Having already been a standard elevation on two occasions, Tavai was no longer eligible to join the Patriots game day roster.

Tavai’s signing was a bit surprising to some, who expected the Pats open roster spot to be filled by defensive back Myles Bryant. The physical safety has performed well in limited duty with the Pats, dating back to last season.

Bryant was a standard elevation for Week Four against the Bucs, playing nine defensive snaps. In Week Five, he was a COVID replacement against the Texans, playing eleven defensive snaps, mostly in the slot.

Still, the Pats opted for Tavai, who is a sizable linebacker with a plodding playing style that makes him a comfortable fit in New England. The 6-foot-2, 246-pounder played in 31 games (16 starts) over the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions, registering 113 total tackles, two sacks, one interception, two passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The former second-round draft selection has a history of playing under current Patriots advisor (and former Lions coach) Matt Patricia.

With Tavai, the Pats retain the services of a versatile linebacker that can also shift up and play along the defensive line. Also, with key Patriots players such as offensive lineman Trent Brown expected back in the lineup sooner than later, Tavai (as opposed to Bryant) may provide the Pats with greater flexibility in future roster transactions.

Thursday Injury Report: Patriots-Cowboys

Both the Patriots and Cowboys had little change to their Practice Participation and Injury Report on Thursday. The Pats did not add any new players to the report, while Dallas added tackle Tyron Smith, as a limited participant with a neck injury.

New England’s starting left guard Michael Onwenu returned to practice, confirming his removal from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Starting left tackle, Isaiah Wynn, as well as reserve swing tackle Justin Herron (who started in Week Five in Wynn’s stead) were absent from Thursday’s practice. Wynn presumedly remains on the COVID list. Herron had been a limited participant on Wednesday, but was a non participant one day after being limited with an abdomen injury. Should either player (or both) be unable to play on Sunday, reserve lineman Yodny Cajuste would be the logical choice to start at left tackle. Cajuste played every snap at right tackle on Sunday, but is a natural fit on the left side, having played much of his collegiate career at West Virginia at left tackle.

On the positive side, running back Damien Harris (ribs) and starting right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen) both participated in Thursday’s practice, taking part in non-contact drills during the open media portion of practice. Both Harris and Mason were listed as non-participants on Wednesday.

For the Cowboys, a potentially significant development may be developing in their defensive backfield. Cornerback Trevon Diggs was a non-participant at practice for the second straight day. Diggs has unquestionably been Dallas’ best player in their secondary. Diggs has six interceptions this season, earning at least one in every game played. Should Diggs be absent on Sunday, the Patriots passing game would find it much easier to test the depth Cowboys secondary.

Here is Thursday’s Full Report:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

OL Justin Herron, Abdomen

CB Shaun Wade, Concussion

LIMITED AVAILABILITY

LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, Shoulder

DB Cody Davis, Knee

Read More

S Kyle Dugger, Hamstring

K Nick Folk, Left Knee

RB Damien Harris, Ribs

CB Jonathan Jones, Ankle

G Shaq Mason, Abdomen

DB Jalen Mills, Hamstring

LB Ronnie Perkins, Ankle

LB Kyle Van Noy, Groin

FULL AVAILABILITY

No Players Listed

DALLAS COWBOYS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

DE Dorance Armstrong, Ankle

CB Trevon Diggs, Ankle

S Damontae Kazee, Hip

LIMITED AVAILABILITY

RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ribs

DE Randy Gregory, Knee

T Tyron Smith, Neck

S Donavan Wilson, Groin

FULL AVAILABILITY

T Ty Nsekhe, Illness

Folk Milestone on Sunday?

Patriots kicker Nick Folk has been enjoying quite the week. On Wednesday, the 36-year-old was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, following a 4-4 field-goal performance against the Texans in Week Five, two of which connected for 52 yards. However, he has the chance to earn a milestone on Sunday against the Cowboys. Folk enters this week's game with 299 career field goals and needs one more to become the 35th NFL player to reach 300 career field goals. He would become the fifth active kicker to reach 300 career field goals, joining Robbie Gould (403), Mason Crosby (355), Matt Prater (329) and Justin Tucker (301).