Some arrived there in July. Others arrived there in December. But 10 New England Patriots players found themselves on injured reserve by season’s end.
Here is a follow-up with each one as the 2014 chapter turns to 2015.
Tyler Gaffney, Running Back: The former Carolina Panthers sixth-round pick was waived-injured and claimed by the Patriots in July, after suffering a torn lateral meniscus heading into training camp. Gaffney was stashed on injured reserve a month later, as New England got under the 75-man roster limit on Aug. 26. The 23-year-old operated behind multiple tight ends, crunched lanes and I-formation sets at Stanford, rushing for 1,709 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior in 2013. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound baseball prospect followed up that campaign by posting top-tier numbers at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, including a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, a 6.78-second three-cone drill, as well as an 11.36-second 60-yard shuttle. His one-cut running style will give him opportunity as a power back once organized team activities and training camp roll around this summer. He used to run through the blocks of Patriots offensive tackle Cameron Fleming while a Cardinal.
Stevan Ridley, Running Back: The 2011 third-round pick by way of LSU is set to become an unrestricted free agent this March, five months after his fourth season with the Patriots ended with a torn ACL and MCL versus the Buffalo Bills. Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, before rushing for 773 and 340 over the last two, respectively. But whether or not the 5-foot-11, 220-pound back returns to the fold is uncertain. New England maintained continuity with LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray as the between-the-tackles runners in his absence, and there is also fourth-rounder James White and special-teamer Brandon Bolden to account for. Both he and Vereen present good free-agent value at the right price, yet the Patriots have been able to find serviceability elsewhere.
Greg Orton, Wide Receiver: A well-traveled target who originally signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in December of 2013, Orton re-signed in July before tearing his Achilles down in the end zone just days into training camp. The 6-foot-3, 199-pound Purdue product was waived-injured thenceforth, opening a place on the roster for the team to sign Brian Tyms. Now 28 and on his fourth NFL team since going undrafted in 2009, Orton is an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning he’ll be back this spring if the Patriots present him with an offer.
Aaron Dobson, Wide Receiver: After becoming the most productive rookie wideout in the era of quarterback Tom Brady, Aaron Dobson’s 2014 season resulted in three catches for 38 yards. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound former second-round pick battled back from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, but battling back onto the field proved to be another story. Dobson was a healthy inactive for eight games, returning to the lineup in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers before injuring his hamstring chasing a pass down the sideline. The Marshall deep threat was placed on injured reserve less than a week later. He’ll be looking to make up for lost time in a wide-receiving corps now pillared by Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell.
Michael Buchanan, Defensive End: A seventh-round pick by way of Illinois in 2013, Buchanan registered nine tackles and two sacks over 15 games as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound edge-rusher flashed glimpses of burst and flexibility running the arc, but also glimpses of struggles in terms of gap discipline. Buchanan moved primarily into the kicking game from there, after veteran Andre Carter returned. And in 2014, the 24-year-old served again on special teams before being placed on injured reserve after three games. Buchanan finished the year with two tackles and 25 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet while his sample size is limited, the long and rangy defensive end once cut out a role next to Chandler Jones in third-and-long situations.
Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle: The rookie first-round defensive tackle forged back from two ACL injuries during his career with the Florida Gators, beginning his tenure with the Patriots on the non-football injury list in camp. Easley was on the field for the start of the regular season, however. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound pass-rusher aligned from seven-technique defensive end to one-technique defensive tackle, carving a purpose on passing downs through the first few months of the season. Though after turning in his best performance of his NFL career versus the Indianapolis Colts, the 22-year-old was slowed by lingering knee issues. His first year in Foxborough came to a close with 10 tackles, one sack, one pass breakup and one interception over two starts and 11 appearances. And giving him an early start at a full offseason outweighed giving him limited snaps at less than 100 percent.
Cameron Gordon, Linebacker: Gordon began his Michigan career at wide receiver before converting to safety and ultimately linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Wolverine went on to become a four-year letterman, playing in 45 total games games with 15 starts, before going undrafted and signing with the Patriots last May. Gordon was on the physically unable to perform list in August, and he played in one preseason contest before landing on injured reserve. He will be back aiming to carve a niche on special teams this August, much like he did over his four-plus years at Michigan.
James Morris, Linebacker: Under head coach Kirk Ferentz, Morris was one of only six players in Iowa Hawkeyes history to notch 400 career tackles. He finished his career with 10.5 sacks and six interceptions as a three-year starter, and joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in May. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker signed a contract that included $20,000 guaranteed, but was waived four days later with the failed-physical designation. Morris was reportedly treated for a blood clot and returned for a second stint with New England in August, playing in the final two preseason games to record five tackles. The 23-year-old off-ball defender was then placed on injured reserve as the roster trimmed to 53. He will be an exclusive-rights free agent.
Jerod Mayo, Linebacker: After his 2013 campaign ended with a torn pectoral muscle versus the Atlanta Falcons, the team captain, green dot, and Pro Bowler saw his 2014 campaign end with a torn patellar tendon versus the Buffalo Bills. The 28-year-old Mayo spent the rest of the year serving a sideline role for the likes of Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and is under contract through 2017. He told WEEI in January that his recovery is on schedule.
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback: Dennard, a 2012 seventh-round pick by way of Nebraska, started four of the six contests he played in during the 2014 season. Even so, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound corner was also inactive for nine games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury heading into Week 17. His season concluded with 15 tackles and an interception, but fellow defensive backs Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler eclipsed him on the depth chart by then. Dennard is approaching the final year of his rookie deal.