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Josh McDaniels letting Malcolm Mitchell's status take its course

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels isn't sure if receiver Malcolm Mitchell will be activated to the 53-man roster, which could provide the offense with a spark in the playoffs. Mitchell, who spent the first 16 weeks of the season on injured reserve (knee), was designated for return last Wednesday and took part in three practices.

"Those decisions are certainly going to be made by Coach [Bill] Belichick and our medical people, but it was good to have him out there. Not sure what that will lead to, as with every player coming back from some type of an injury or rehab," McDaniels said Monday on his weekly conference call with reporters.

The Patriots have been struggling to beat man coverage at times, which is something Mitchell -- even in limited snaps -- could help address (five catches for 63 yards in the second half of Super Bowl LI). Mitchell has told those close to him that he feels ready and is anxious, but that he will respect whatever decision Belichick makes.

Mitchell's smile was hard to miss on the practice field last week. He joined receivers Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt at practice.

"Malcolm’s a great kid and worked hard and tried to get himself back on the field. I’m happy for him that he’s been able to do that," McDaniels said. "That process is a long process. There’s a lot of things that will be involved with that, I’m sure, most importantly his health and ability to do the things that we would need him to do on the field. ...

"You’ve just got to let it take its course and do the best you can working with him, and then if and when that time comes when he’s ready and can help us and can contribute, I’m sure that that will happen. But, right now, it’s just good to have him out there and good for him to be there and be coached and work with his guys."

As for the Patriots' offense, the 85 snaps in the regular-season finale were the second-highest total all year (86 vs. Chargers), but they had only 24 points (not including a safety) to show for it.

Said McDaniels: "I think the next time we play, usually when you get into that situation, it’s the best team that you’ve played. All those areas -- you can name any one of them -- you need to have your best, so whether it’s overall execution, finish on plays, third-down execution, ability to take care of the ball, red zone, two-minute, how you start the game. You know, there were certainly some positives yesterday. We started the game the right way, didn’t turn the ball over, did some good things in the red zone, scored before the half, but overall just not as well-executed as we would like. And we certainly have plenty to work on this week to try to prepare and have our best performance the next time we line up and play."