According to the NFL transaction wire, the New England Patriots have reinstated defensive tackle Alan Branch after a one-week suspension.
No, we don’t know what happened. No, it probably wasn’t anything super serious. Yes, he’s probably still the starter. Yes, he’s probably in Bill Belichick’s dog house.
The main story from the suspension is not what happened, but what we learned while Branch was sidelined.
We learned that former Giants DT Markus Kuhn is #3 in the depth chart, joining the top rotation with sophomore star Malcom Brown. This is notable because Kuhn played the penetrating role on the second string line with Terrance Knighton, while Branch is the space eater on the first string line. Kuhn and Brown both offer flexibility to both penetrate and face double teams.
Knighton, on the other hand, needs a good performance against the Panthers because not only did he miss out on joining the first string line with Brown, but the Patriots also had him playing deep into the fourth quarter. He is a key player to watch moving forward.
The big storyline might have been the emergence of Anthony Johnson as a pass rushing fiend in the middle of the field. While he plays an entirely different role than Branch, his status with the first team line seemed linked to Branch’s absence. All Johnson needed was a chance to prove himself and he stepped up to the occasion.
Branch might not play against the Panthers because he has been suspended all week, but his availability will be something to monitor for the rest of the preseason.