New England Patriots DT Alan Branch might join RB Rex Burkhead and CB Eric Rowe as inactive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because the veteran defensive tackle did not travel with the team, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Personnel note: DT Alan Branch didn't travel with the team to Tampa. Snaps have been limited of late, his play not at '16 level.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) October 5, 2017
This is a huge drop for Branch, who was regarded as the team’s best defensive lineman for much of the past two years. Branch has just two tackles this year, both of them from the opener, and he’s seen a sharp decline in snaps. After playing 42 against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 1, Branch has played a combined 39 snaps over the past three weeks.
The Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that this decision was made because of Branch’s performance issues.
Branch recently spoke with CSNNE about his new role with the team, saying, “Everybody wants to play. It's upsetting. At the same time, it's not my pay grade to make those decisions.”
He also said that he couldn’t be the player he was over the past two seasons if he remains on the sideline with an opportunity to prove himself.
If Branch doesn’t play, then the Patriots have just Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy as pure defensive interior players on the depth chart, with Adam Butler providing the only depth as a hybrid inside-outside player. This is a risky decision against a strong Tampa rushing game.
Hopefully Branch will be able to rebound quickly and help the team moving forward, or else we’re witnessing the end of his time in New England. This follows the same path that Jabaal Sheard led in a declining role in 2016.