Price 'Out' For Dolphins Game, Presents a New Challenge For the Offense

Ian Logue
September 11, 2011 at 09:02pm ET

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The Patriots surprisingly released the names of a couple of players who have been downgraded for Monday night's game against the Dolphins, and it's safe to say that one is certainly a bit of a shock.

According to their official Twitter channelJermaine Cunningham, Taylor Price, Jeff Tarpinian, Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell have all been downgraded to OUT for tomorrow night's game.

Most people were already expecting Vollmer to sit out, after he missed the final four days of practice heading into the season opener.  That obviously paves the way for rookie Nate Solder to start against the Dolphins, which should present one challenge for Tom Brady and the offense.

Patriots wide receiver Taylor Price was downgraded to 'Out' by the team Sunday night. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

However, the fact Price will miss this game is somewhat surprising, especially considering he didn't seem to be still ailing following this week's practice reports.

His loss is going to make it somewhat tough on New England's offense because the Patriots needed him to mature and earn a role - and we saw glimpses of it during the preseason. As it is, Wes Welker is the lone wide receiver in this offense with any history of being a playmaker. Newcomer Chad Ochocinco  has struggled to settle in thus far, along with Deion Branch, who wasn't a major contributor during the preseason and finished without a reception. Hopefully Julian Edelman will also step up and prove he can be more of an asset to this offense in his third season after catching just 7 passes during the regular season last year.

But it's been frustrating because they needed Price to step up, and the fact he didn't see much time during the preseason is definitely a setback. The fact he's out for Monday night's game won't help him either.

Price had seemed to be coming into his own early on during the preseason, after his 5 catch, 105 yard performance along with a touchdown in the preseason opener against Jacksonville left most feeling that this could potentially have been the year for him to take the next step up the depth chart.  Unfortunately the bad news is he hasn't been himself since being lit up in that game after taking a helmet-to-helmet shot - which lead to a $20,000 fine on Jaguars linebacker Mike Lockley - although most reports still say that's not what's troubling him now and that it's a 'hamstring' issue.  

It's going to be an interesting year. If Ochocinco, Edelman, and Branch don't play well or get injured, it will be up to Welker and last year's tight end incumbents Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowksi - both of which were never involved consistently in the offense last season - to carry the load. Price's absence could also potentially be another opportunity for someone like Matthew Slater to grab a firm hold of the 5th wide receiver spot and further prove that he can answer the call for Brady and the offense, much like he did during the exhibition finale against the Giants a couple of weeks ago.

Looking at all the different questions and uncertainty they're facing, Monday night's game should be interesting.  We watched last season as Brady spread the ball around and by the time each game was over - save for two losses - New England still figured out a way to come out on top each week.  Most would agree they have good enough personnel to do much of the same this year - but having Price emerge as a potential new threat would have certainly helped.  It also explains the ongoing workouts with other receiver castoffs and the fact that they're continuing to explore their options.

Either way it's surprising news to say the least, and it just made things a bit more intriguing heading into Monday night's opener.