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Patriots notes: OL LaAdrian Waddle earns more and more playing time – News –

FOXBORO — Entering this season, tackle LaAdrian Waddle had appeared in three of 19 regular-season games, all in a reserve role, after the Patriots claimed him off waivers in mid-December 2015.

The fifth-year pro already has played in five games this year, including making his first start in two years, a wire-to-wire effort against the Houston Texans in Week 3, and seeing significant action after replacing the injured Marcus Cannon at right tackle against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Waddle played 51 offensive snaps against the Chargers and held his own against proficient pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The two combined for a sack and an additional hit, with Bosa getting the sack after beating Cannon, who was playing on a gimpy ankle.

“I think he did well,” offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said of Waddle Wednesday. “He was out there against two of the best edge rushers in the league. He’s long, he’s strong, and he’s got a good skill set. So I thought he acquitted himself very well, but that’s what we expect of him.”

The Patriots surprised many football followers by keeping both Waddle and fellow swing tackle Cam Fleming out of training camp.

Fleming, a 2014 fourth-round draft choice, was the favored choice early on — the Patriots only carry one reserve tackle on game day — but he has since been overtaken by Waddle and has been a healthy scratch the past three games.

“It’s obvious that’s what we’ve done, but I don’t think the difference is a hell of a lot — I really don’t,” Scarnecchia said. “I think they’re both guys who can play in this league. We like them both, but we can only take seven (linemen) into a game. We’re not taking any more than that.”

Hoyer returns

The Patriots have their backup quarterback.

The team announced that they have signed Brian Hoyer on Wednesday. The nine-year pro signed a three-year deal, potentially keeping him with Tom Brady through 2019.

“Brian’s a smart guy,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He’s got, obviously, some years in our system and our terminology, so it will be kind of a cram session here, but I don’t expect that to take forever because Brian’s an intelligent guy that had plenty of exposure to what we do, and I know he’ll work hard. Hopefully, we’ll catch him up really quickly.”

This move has been in the works since the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco on Monday. According to sources, there was already mutual interest between Hoyer, who was released from the 49ers, and the Patriots. The quarterback arrived in Foxboro on Wednesday morning before inking his contract before noon.

The move makes sense for the Patriots. Hoyer broke into the NFL as Tom Brady’s backup. Though Hoyer went undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009, he was signed by Patriots immediately after the draft. He remained with the team until 2011, appearing in 13 games.

The 32-year-old right-handed gunslinger has since started games for Arizona, Cleveland, Houston, Chicago and San Francisco.

This season, he started six games for the 49ers, completing 58 percent of his passes and throwing for 1,245 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

By adding Hoyer, the Patriots bring in a quarterback familiar with their system. He was at practice on Wednesday, wearing No. 2, and McDaniels doesn’t think it’ll take the veteran too long to catch up.

“There’s certainly things that have changed since he was here, I’m sure, but I would say that it’s just like learning a new language,” McDaniels said. “Generally, they’re not going to change the language entirely. You know, you might have to learn a new word here or there or something like that, which I’m sure Brian will be able to do quickly.”

LBs must step up

There’s no denying that the Patriots linebacker unit took a big hit last week when Dont’a Hightower had season-ending surgery on his torn pectoral muscle. There’s also no denying that the group responded positively in the team’s win over the Chargers.

On Wednesday, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores said that everyone would need to continue to step up in the wake of Hightower’s injury.

“I think when you lose a player like that, you just kind of band together and everyone has to do a little bit more,” Flores said. “Everyone just has to do a little bit more communication, some of the guys have to play different positions. But as a group, if you get can five guys, six guys really, and as a group I think we’ve done a decent job of getting that accomplished last game.

There’s also a chance that the group could get a boost in the coming weeks. With Shea McClellin eligible to come off the injured reserve and play next week against Denver, Flores could be getting more help. Last season, in 14 games, McClellin totaled 41 tackles and made one sack. He also started Super Bowl LI.

In the event he returns, he’ll join Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris and Marquis Flowers at the linebacker position.

“He’d come in and try to fit the roles he’s played in the past, potentially. But, right now I’m focused on the guys that are here,” Flores said.

Rowe back to practice

In the Patriots’ only practice of the week, Eric Rowe returned while Malcom Brown (ankle), Chris Hogan (shoulder), Marcus Cannon (ankle) and Stephen Gostkowski were absent.

This marks the first time Rowe was seen at practice since Week 4. The cornerback missed the last four weeks and four games with a groin injury. Rowe has only played in three games this season, so his presence at Wednesday’s practice was a good sign.

Hogan and Cannon suffered their injuries last weekend against the Chargers. Hogan won’t need surgery for his shoulder but could be out for a couple of weeks. Brown missed last weekend’s game against Los Angeles after suffering the ankle injury two weeks ago against Atlanta.

It’s unknown why Gostkowski wasn’t seen at practice. The Patriots won’t have an injury report until next week. Wednesday’s session represented the bulk of the Patriots’ bye-week work. The team will get Thursday through Sunday off before returning for Week 10.

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