Pats getting noticeably thinner in several areas
The Patriots wrap up their three-day joint practice venture with the Bears on Wednesday morning with a walk-thru scheduled at 10 a.m. prior to the preseason game Thursday. But the injury bug, which so decimated the team a year ago, is raising its ugly head again.
Looking forward to tomorrow night’s game, the team is already thin in a number of positions and they can ill-afford any further injuries. Here’s a quick look at where the team is hurting at:
Wide Receiver: With Danny Amendola still on PUP, and Malcolm Mitchell likely to miss at least the rest of the preseason after suffering a dislocated elbow, the depth is tested daily at practice. Keshawn Martin has been dinged up and hasn’t been practicing. The good news is that Julian Edelman returned to team drills in practice on Tuesday and Chris Hogan shed his red non-contact jersey.
But the flip side is neither will probably play much if at all against the Bears. While the team is erring on the side of caution, it takes away some valuable time the receivers get to work with QBs Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady. Building solid chemistry and timing is an aspect of the game that can’t be overstated.
This leaves Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Devin Lucien and Matthew Slater to handle pass-catching duties outside for the Bears game.
Defensive End: Rob Ninkovich tore his triceps a week ago against the Saints and although has returned to practice in a limited fashion, he’s expected to miss about a month. Fellow starter Jabaal Sheard hasn’t been on the field since the Saints game and neither has Shea McClellin. That is three of the Patriots top four defensive ends and an integral part of the team’s pass rush.
It also hurts the Patriots depth at linebacker as both Ninkovich and McClellin have taken snaps at linebacker this summer.
Veteran Chris Long has stepped up and played very solidly and he’ll be relied upon to provide the veteran presence in their absence. Trey Flowers who has shined in the last week-plus of camp has been getting starting reps in the other player’s absences. Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson will both see extended playing time this week.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski pulled up at practice against the Bears on Monday in a drill and hasn’t been seen at practice since. His injury is being characterized as minor and a bruise according to various media reports. Rookie UDFA Bryce Williams who was making some inroads at the third TE position with some solid play early in camp has been injured. Clay Harbor who began the summer on PUP, suffered an awkward, ugly hit in 11-on-11 drills yesterday and was shaken up and left practice.
That leaves Martellus Bennett, A.J. Derby, Bear Pascoe, and Steven Scheu available for the Bears game. James Develin who plays fullback could fill in here as he’s done that in the past but the team may opt to use him only sparingly.
Running Back: Dion Lewis remains on PUP and hasn’t been seen since he made a brief cameo during the last day of minicamp. D.J. Foster who was one of the most intriguing UDFAs to come along has barely registered a blip on the radar screen as he’s not practiced much at all. Donald Brown has been dinged up and although he’s been on the field, he’s not participating, retreating to the lower fields with the training staff once the warm-ups are completed. Brandon Bolden joined the list of missing this week.
This leaves LeGarrette Blount, James White, Tyler Gaffney, Develin and Joey Iosefa as the only healthy running backs heading into Thursday’s preseason game. I’d look for Gaffney and Iosefa to see a lot of reps in the second half of this one.
Offensive Line: Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is still on PUP. Left tackle Nate Solder missed some practice time on Tuesday and was seen on the sideline with his shoe off. But he then later returned to action with no ill effects. Guard Tre’ Jackson remains on PUP and Jonathan Cooper who the team traded for this offseason was injured in the team’s first fully padded practice and hasn’t been seen since.
The mixing and matching inside will be an area to watch. Rookie LG Joe Thuney seems to be a lock at starting the season there. Right guard still seems open with Shaq Mason, Josh Kline and rookie Ted Karras battling it out. David Andrews has moved ahead of Bryan Stork at center.
So the Patriots will enter Thursday night’s game with the Bears with well under the 90 players that they have currently on the roster. The biggest goal of the contest tomorrow night may well be coming out of it healthy. At this early juncture of the preseason, the team can ill-afford any more injuries.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Chris Long Dion Lewis Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots injuries Patriots Training Camp Photos Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers