The New England Patriots have completed the first half of the 2019 NFL season with a perfect 8-0 record. Last week they continued their dominating play on both sides of the ball with a 27-13 win over the preseason darling Cleveland Browns.
The Patriots have done this with some expected key contributors on the sidelines. This season’s first round draft pick wide receiver N’Keal Harry has been on the injured reserve all season (although he may return for Sunday, but most likely after the bye week.) Third round draft pick guard Yodny Cajuste has been on the reserve/non-football injury (NFI) list all season.
Also on the offensive line, fourth round draft pick Hjalte Froholdt–who played very well in the preseason–was injured and will miss the entire season with a shoulder injury. Last year’s first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn lasted five quarters after missing all of the 2018 season with an Achilles injury. This year it is turf toe that has him on injured reserve, although there is hope he may return later in the year.
Also on the offensive line, center David Andrews was ruled out for the season in training camp as blood clots in his lungs ended his year before it began. Key blockers fullbacks James Develin and his backup Jakob Johnson both went down with injuries and are on injured reserve.
The injury bug hit both sides of the ball with defensive ends Keionta Davis and Derek Rivers went out before the season began. In the secondary, impressive undrafted free agents safety Malik Gant and cornerback D’Angelo Ross both landed on injured reserve and will fight for a job next year in training camp.
Even special teams took a hit as highly valued four-core special teams player Brandon King tore his quadriceps muscle in the preseason and will miss the entire season. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, in his 14th season in New England had a rough start to the season and after week four it was revealed he required hip surgery and would miss the rest of the year.
This week the 8-0 New England Patriots face a stiff test as the AFC North leading 5-2 Baltimore Ravens welcome them to M&T Bank Stadium in what could be a battle for home field advantage in January.
PATRIOTS’ INJURY REPORT:
The news this week for the Patriots and the injury report focused on two players: Josh Gordon and Tom Brady. Tom Brady was listed as limited on Wednesday with a right shoulder injury but removed from the list as a full participant the rest of the week and is good to go on Sunday.
Josh Gordon had been placed on injured reserve and was released this week as he returned to health. The Patriots, by putting him on injured reserve until after the trading deadline, forced Gordon to go through waivers. He was claimed by Seattle.
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The Patriots had the “usual suspects” on the injury list listed as questionable after being limited all week with running back Rex Burkhead (foot), safety Patrick Chung (heel and chest), wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder and chest), tight ends Ryan Izzo (still in concussion protocol) and Matt LaCosse (knee), and punt returner/wide receiver Gunner Olsazewski (hamstring and ankle).
Starting right guard Shaq Mason–who missed the win over Cleveland last week–remains questionable with an ankle injury. The new addition was running back James White added to the injury list on Friday with a toe injury and being questionable for Sunday night.
Izzo is the most likely to miss the game. Mason will be closely monitored and with a bye week next week could have another game off to give him an extra week to get to full health. LaCosse is likely the healthier of the tight ends and likely to play with just Ben Watson on the roster with Eric Tomlinson released this week.
Burkhead returned to action and played 13 snaps on offense and 14 on special teams versus Cleveland. Edelman looked better last week and played 96% of the snaps on offense. Olszewski was out to return punts last week while clearly dinged-up so he is likely to go again on Sunday.
Chung played 87% of the defensive snaps on defense and should play this week with a need for his aggressive coverage skills against tight ends. As the Browns like to roll out three tight end sets, it will be all hands on deck for the defense.
RAVENS’ INJURY REPORT:
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a bye week and are close to full strength. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has been a huge loss for the Ravens this year and his return to team with Marcus Peters should give the Ravens a boost on defense. He has been limited but practiced fully on Friday.
The Ravens also had starting linebacker Patrick Onwuasor on the injury report with an ankle but he was practicing this week for the first time in almost a month. His return would be a boost to the defense.
Speaking of boosts to the defense, free safety Earl Thomas–who did not practice on Wednesday–returned on Thursday and while listed as questionable is likely to play. Safety Bennett Jackson did not practice on Thursday and Friday and likely will not play.
The big surprise was wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown who did practice earlier in the week and did not practice on Friday. He had been out since October 6th and remains limited with an ankle injury all week. Missing practice Friday throws his availability for Sunday night into question.
Also on offense, back-up guard Patrick Mekari was limited all week and is a game day decision.
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01