Patriots activate Riley McCarron off practice squad for WR depth

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots put rookie cornerback Duke Dawson on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury, and promoted receiver Riley McCarron from the practice squad Thursday.

The transaction highlights some recent struggles with the Patriots' second-round picks and also addresses needed depth at receiver.

Dawson, a University of Florida alum who was selected with the 56th overall pick of the draft, was expected to compete for playing time as the team's nickelback. After playing in the team's first preseason game Aug. 9, he was sidelined for the remaining three games.

Third-year player Jonathan Jones projects to fill the nickelback role, similar to 2017.

Dawson could still return to the Patriots' roster later in the season. His move to injured reserve follows the Patriots parting ways with their previous two second-round picks -- cornerback Cyrus Jones (cut) and safety Jordan Richards (traded).

Meanwhile, the promotion of McCarron opens up more options for the Patriots at receiver, where they are unusually thin. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are atop the depth chart, followed by kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson and Chad Hansen, who was claimed on waivers from the New York Jets on Sunday.

McCarron, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2017, spent most of last season on the Patriots' practice squad and he was with the team throughout training camp this year. His knowledge of the team's offensive system sparks the possibility that the Patriots could turn to the no-huddle attack in Sunday's season-opener against the Texans, which might not have been possible given the team's limited options.

With McCarron promoted, the Patriots signed former Texans tight end Stephen Anderson to the practice squad.