The 53-man roster is a fluid thing. And the same can be said of the 46-man gameday roster.
The 12-4 New England Patriots illustrated that notion over the course of the 2014 regular season, deactivating 32 different players to fulfill the weekly requirement of seven.
In Week 17, the plans for the team’s inactives shifted as key starters were afforded rest leading up to the playoffs. But that luxury was preceded by matchup decisions, injury management, and simply the interest of putting the top of the depth chart on the field each week.
Here is a look back at the season-ending totals from the inactives index.
James White, Halfback: 13
- The fourth-round Wisconsin product was inactive for 13 games, playing against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, the Chicago Bears in Week 8 and the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 by the end of his rookie season. White finished the 2014 regular season with nine carries for 38 yards and five catches for 23 yards.
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback: 9
- The third-year cornerback was inactive nine times this season before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, just one day before the team hosted Buffalo to close the regular season. Dennard played in six games, starting four, while notching 15 tackles and an interception.
Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle: 9
- One of two Patriots fourth-round picks from 2014, Fleming has lined up as a guard, tackle and eligible tight end for the Patriots this season. Finger and ankle injuries have left him inactive for nine games, however. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Stanford Cardinal has played in seven games and started two.
Jordan Devey, Guard: 9
- Devey started the first three contests for the Patriots at guard before being inactive for Week 4. The former Snow College and University of Memphis offensive tackle has fulfilled primarily a reserve role since, being one of the inactives for eight consecutive games at one point. His first full season on New England’s 53-man roster has resulted in seven games and four starts.
Aaron Dobson, Wideout: 8
- Dobson’s second season in New England was unable to get off the ground after undergoing offseason surgery to address a stress fracture in his foot. The 2013 second-round pick was ruled inactive eight times – including five straight times – before returning to the field against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13. That would be the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Marshall wide receiver’s last game of the year. He was placed on injured reserve the following week with a hamstring injury after netting three receptions for 38 yards.
Chandler Jones, Defensive End: 6
- Jones was inactive for six games in a row due to a hip injury that was once believed to be season-ending. But 24-year-old Syracuse Orangemen returned and finished the regular season having started eight of his 10 games. In the process, he totaled 43 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two pass deflections.
Zach Moore, Defensive End: 6
- The sixth-round pick via Concordia-St. Paul was inactive for six games over the 16-game season. But Moore did take on a larger role along the defensive line when injuries to the likes of Jones left the edge thin. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound rookie started one of his eight games, collecting three tackles, a half-sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Josh Kline, Guard: 4
- Kline was inactive four times over the first five weeks of the season, but stepped into the offensive line rotation due to injury. The 2013 undrafted free agent out of Kent State concluded his second regular season having played in 12 games, starting four.
Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker: 4
- Hightower was inactive in Week 5 and Week 6 with a knee injury, then later in Week 14 and Week 17 with a shoulder injury. The 2012 first-round linebacker has been the green dot of New England’s defense since Jerod Mayo’s season-ending patellar injury, and his regular season has accounted for 89 tackles, six tackles, one forced fumble and two pass breakups.
Nate Ebner, Safety: 4
- A core special-teamer, Ebner was sidelined for a month with a finger injury in the midst of the season. The 26-year-old Ohio State Buckeye has been a part of the 12 games before and after, picking up 11 tackles as well as snaps as a hybrid linebacker in the dime defense.
Malcolm Butler, Cornerback: 4
- The undrafted rookie out of West Alabama made the 53-man cut in August and proceeded to play in 11 games, starting one. Butler was inactive just four times this season, filing in on special teams and as a cornerback behind the likes of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. His rookie campaign concludes with 15 tackles and four passes defensed.
Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle: 3
- The first-round pass-rusher missed three games due to shoulder and knee injuries before being placed on injured reserve earlier in the month. Easley, who worked back from a second ACL injury suffered as a member of the Florida Gators last September, was on the field to accrue 10 tackles, one sack and one interception over 11 games and two starts.
Chris White, Linebacker: 3
- A big-four specialist in the kicking game, White was forced to miss three games in a row with an ankle injury that spanned from Week 13 to Week 15. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound linebacker returned to finish the season with seven tackles in 13 contests.
Bryan Stork, Center: 3
- A fourth-round pick by way of Florida State in May, Stork established himself as New England’s starting center as a rookie, despite being scratched in the season opener and missing two games with a concussion. The 24-year-old played in 13 games and started 11 as the front line fell into place.
Dan Connolly, Guard: 3
- Connolly missed Week 7 due to injury and has also missed the final two games of the regular season with injuries varying from neck to ankle to knee. But the 32-year-old starting left tackle has done just that for the other 13 games.
Brandon Browner, Cornerback: 2
- The 6-foot-4, 221-pound cornerback was inactive for one game after serving his four-game suspension, then later for the final game of the regular season after battling a groin injury. Browner assumed a starting place in New England’s secondary between then, generating 25 tackles and an interception.
Michael Buchanan, Defensive End: 2
- Buchanan, a seventh-round pick in 2013, was inactive for the first two games of the season before stepping in as a situational edge-rusher and special-teamer for New England’s next three games. Yet after two tackles, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Illinois grad was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Wideout: 2
- The 2013 undrafted free agent played in two of New England’s first four games this season, catching six passes for 53 yards. Yet on Oct. 4, Thompkins was waived as the team elevated linebacker Ja’Gared Davis to the 53-man roster. A day later, the former El Camino College and Cincinnati wide receiver was claimed by the Oakland Raiders, where he finished the campaign having caught 15 passes for 209 yards over the the final 12 contests.
Ryan Wendell, Guard: 2
- A knee injury kept the former Patriots starting center from playing in two games in September, but Wendell has since moved over to right guard and started 12 of the 14 games he’s been active for.
Don Jones, Safety: 2
- Claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins, Jones left his mark on special teams in his nine games with the Patriots. The Arkansas State safety was inactive only twice, making six special-teams stops before being waived on Thanksgiving. He was reclaimed by Miami and finished the season with five tackles in four games.
Casey Walker, Defensive Tackle: 2
- The Patriots added Walker off the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad after fellow defensive tackle Sealver Siliga was placed on short-term injured reserve with a foot injury. Walker was inactive twice for the Patriots over his time on the 53, netting 11 tackles and one sack over his first five NFL regular-season games. As Siliga returned and free agent Alan Branch signed, Walker was waived and brought back on the practice squad. He departed to join the Baltimore Ravens’ active roster earlier in December and netted one tackle in the regular-season finale.
Julian Edelman, Wideout: 2
- A concussion and thigh injury held Edelman out of the Patriots’ final two regular-season games, and he was held out of crossing hte 100-catch, 1,000-yard mark in result. But the starting wideout got close, reeling in 92 passes for 972 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. Edelman also added 10 rushes for 94 yards, and 29 punt returns for 299 yards and another touchdown.
Chris Jones, Defensive Tackle: 1
- Chris Jones was inactive in Week 1 due to an ankle injury suffered in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. Since then, the second-year defensive tackle has gone on to play in 15 games, registering 12 starts, 25 tackles and three sacks.
Darius Fleming, Linebacker: 1
- Signing on with the Patriots this past summer after battling back from two torn ACLs with the San Francisco 49ers, Fleming made the 53-man roster and was inactive for the season opener. From there, the Notre Dame linebacker was waived and later re-signed to the practice squad. When New England had to address an injury on special teams, the 25-year-old Fleming was promoted to the active roster. He has since played in five games and recorded six tackles, stepping in for his most extensive work on the defensive side of the ball in Week 17.
Jamie Collins, Linebacker: 1
- The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Southern Mississippi safety, linebacker and defensive end missed Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings with a thigh injury. But Collins has since gone on to amass 116 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions over the last 15 games. The 2013 second-round pick has started each one.
Chris Barker, Guard: 1
- A second-year guard out of Nevada, Barker was inactive for Week 8 during his stint on the 53-man roster. The 6-foot-2, 310-pound guard was waived after appearing in one game but was later signed to the practice squad.
Danny Aiken, Long Snapper: 1
- A concussion suffered against the Detroit Lions sidelined Aiken for one week. That one week saw defensive end Rob Ninkovich step in to long snap versus Green Bay Week 13.
LeGarrette Blount, Halfback: 1
- The 6-foot, 250-pound Blount returned to the Patriots in time to face the Lions and ended the year having partaken in five games with the team. Blount was inactive for Week 16 due to a shoulder injury but was back to play into the fourth quarter in the finale. His year with the Patriots consisted of 60 carries for 281 yards and three touchdowns, as well as four catches for 18 yards.
Kyle Arrington, Cornerback: 1
- The durable cornerback was forced to miss his first game since 2010 due to a hamstring injury. Arrington was active a week later for the final game of the regular season, but he was the only active Patriots player not to enter. The 28-year-old Hofstra standout did play in 14 contests this season, tallying 39 tackles, one sack, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles and fumble recovery.
Jonas Gray, Halfback: 1
- Since being signed to the active roster following Stevan Ridley’s season-ending knee injuries in Week 6, Gray has been inactive only once. It was in Week 17, after the running back injured his ankle the week prior. Gray appeared in eight games, rushing for 412 yards and five touchdowns on 89 attempts, while also adding one catch for seven yards and a tackle on special teams.
Rob Gronkowski, Tight End: 1
- Gronkowski received rest in the final game of the regular season, after playing in the previous 15 games to rack up 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Injuries limited the three-time Pro Bowl tight end to 18 games in his previous two seasons, but he was healthy for all of the 2014 season.
Sebastian Vollmer, Offensive Tackle: 1
- New England’s starting right tackle missed Week 17 after a back injury surfaced during the week leading up to it. The 6-foot-8, 320-pound Vollmer managed to start the other 15 games of 2014. He’s started 67 of 74 games since entering the league as a second-round pick in the 2009 draft.