At today's practice, the Patriots welcomed back a slew of injured players. Returning to practice were Leigh Bodden, Tully Banta-Cain, Gary Guyton, Damione Lewis, George Bussey, and linebackers Dane Fletcher and Thomas Williams.
With three top defenders (Guyton, Banta-Cain, and Bodden) back and practicing, we got a look at how the Patriots defensive depth chart stands currently.
Banta-Cain returned to his starting outside linebacker spot, taking the spot of Marques Murrell. This means that the recently re-instated Derrick Burgess is holding down the other side. While Jermaine Cunningham, who appears to be a starting option, is still out injured, the fact that Burgess is still running with the starting group tells us that he still is a big part of the Patriots plans, despite the personal conflicts that held him out of the first couple of weeks of training camp.
Like Tully Banta-Cain, cornerback Leigh Bodden also moved back into his starting cornerback spot in practice. Bodden had been out the past couple of weeks with a minor knee injury. Bodden also took rookie cornerback Devin McCourty's spot, meaning Darius Butler is still running with the starting unit. Despite this, McCourty still saw a ton of reps.
Finally, it appears that Gary Guyton has a lot of work to do if he's to pass Brandon Spikes on the depth chart. While Guyton was with the 1st team in early camp, before his injury, Brandon Spikes appears to have a hold on the spot now. I wouldn't expect Spikes to let that spot go, as he has really seized the opportunity to start, and has already become a leader on the Patriots' young defense.
Overall, it's just great to see some of these players back, and see a Patriots team that's been ravaged by injuries, get a little bit healthier.