While the New England Patriots have several question marks because of injuries, they’re nowhere near as limited as the New York Jets appear to be this week.
It’s important to keep NFL injuries in perspective. While it’s never easy to see people get hurt doing anything, it’s far more tolerable for football fans to stomach losing a minor contributor as compared to a major star.
Usually teams are better off with as few names on their injury report as possible obviously – though you’d have to think the Kansas City Chiefs would trade at least 10-12 injured players for the one injured player they lost Thursday night (Patrick Mahomes). Quantity is important when discussing injuries, but it’s also just as important to consider quality, positional significance, and overall depth along the roster for contextual purposes.
The New England Patriots might have a shorter injury report this week than they’ve had in several previous weeks, but the names listed on the team’s official website are certainly major ones. Josh Gordon (knee/ankle), Matt LaCosse (knee), and Ryan Izzo (concussion) were all absent from Friday’s practice, and all three represent crucial developments for the Patriots in terms of available personnel for their upcoming game against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Gordon is probably of utmost concern. While he hasn’t been particularly dominant this season through six weeks of action, he’s still the team’s second-leading receiver on the year. Especially with N’Keal Harry still working his way back off the IR list and ineligible to play until Week 9, Gordon is New England’s best outside receiver by far. His absence would be extremely detrimental to the offense if he can’t suit up Monday night.
LaCosse was expected to be out this week as he continues his recovery from a reported MCL sprain in his knee suffered in Week 6 against the New York Giants. Izzo is more of a surprise addition to the injury report as he was fully healthy earlier in the week, but he apparently suffered a concussion during practice on Thursday.
If both players are forced to miss Monday’s game, New England would turn to a pair of recently-signed tight ends in Benjamin Watson and Eric Tomlinson as starters. Neither player has had a snap this season for the Patriots or for any other team, so they’d both be making their 2019 debuts if they take the field at MetLife Stadium against the Jets.
The Patriots also saw limited practice participation from Rex Burkhead (foot), Julian Edelman (chest), Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), and Patrick Chung (heel/chest).
If Edelman, Dorsett, and Gordon were all forced to sit out against New York, the Patriots would have just three wide receivers left from their active roster: Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, and Matthew Slater. Given that Bill Belichick hasn’t activated Devin Ross from the practice squad or signed any other available wideouts this week, it’s probably a good sign that both Edelman and Dorsett will play against the Jets, at the very least.
Burkhead’s return could help alleviate some of the pressure on the New England passing game as well. Besides having the Patriots’ highest rushing average right now at 4.7 yards per carry, Burkhead is also a sure-handed receiver. He caught 14 of 18 passes for 117 yards through four games this year before bowing out with his injury.
Chung is a valuable starting piece on this Patriots defense, but New England is well-equipped to survive without him should he miss Monday night’s game. This defense remains the league leader in nearly every major category, so Belichick could decide to give Chung more time to get healthy and rely instead on Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, and Terrence Brooks as his starting safeties.
While the Patriots have just seven names on their injury report this week, the Jets have 25(!) names listed… although nine of those players were listed as full participants in practice Friday despite their given injuries.
Of the remaining 16 players, six were limited and 10 did not participate at all.
Cornerback Nate Hairston (knee), center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), right guard Brian Winters (shoulder/knee), linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), defensive tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring), and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) were the limited participants.
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (shoulder), left guard Alex Lewis (neck), left guard Kelechi Osemele (shoulder), running back Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle), tight end Chris Herndon (hamstring), linebacker Neville Hewitt (neck/knee), linebacker Albert McClellan (concussion), defensive end Henry Anderson (shoulder), cornerback Darryl Roberts (ankle), and safety Rontez Miles (not injury related) were all absent from Friday’s practice.
As a result, four out of the five starting offensive linemen for the Jets are currently listed as questionable for Monday night’s game. That could present a major problem for New York quarterback Sam Darnold, who just made his long-awaited return from mononucleosis last Sunday versus the Dallas Cowboys. If his offensive line can’t keep the Patriots’ sack-happy defensive front at bay, he might be in store for a world of hurt.
Darnold also will likely be without Herndon on Monday night. The talented second-year tight end has missed all of this season after serving a suspension, but he was on track to make his debut against the Patriots before tweaking his hamstring in practice. His availability might come down to a game-time decision.
Defensively, the Jets should get a boost from the expected return of C.J. Mosley at linebacker, who has already told reporters that he will play Monday night after missing the previous five weeks with a groin injury. Mosley, along with running back Le’Veon Bell, was the crown jewel of the Jets’ haul in free agency this offseason, and his presence on the team would immediately catapult New York’s defense into respectability once more.
Even with Mosley coming back, however, the Jets might have a hard time applying pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady if both Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon are missing from the New York defensive line. Each player is listed as questionable, though McLendon was at least able to get a partial practice in on Friday.
If either or both is forced to sit out Monday night, that would put the onus on defensive standout Leonard Williams and rookie first-round pick Quinnen Williams to create some havoc up front for the Jets against a struggling New England offensive line.
All in all, the Patriots seem to have benefitted from getting some extra days of rest following their Thursday Night Football victory last week against the Giants, as their injury report is significantly smaller than it has been in a long time. Still, New England will need whichever players they have active and available on offense to step up Monday night if they hope to extend their season record to 7-0.