The New England Patriots make their longest road trip of the season venturing out west of the Mississippi for the only time in 2019 with a full injury report. They face the Houston Texans and a tough match-up for their top-ranked defense.
The Patriots had that same illness that swept through your children’s school and your workplace as they had ten players listed as questionable or limited this week due to flu-like symptoms. Although most of the ill players are expected to play Sunday night, their conditioning during the game is something to watch.
FOXBORO FLU (FOR REAL THIS TIME!):
Tight end Ryan Izzo, who has been on-and-off the injury report all season with various ailments, has been the only New England Patriots player ruled out due to illness this week. Key contributors including starting tackles Marcus Cannon and Isaiah Wynn, backup tackle/guard Jermaine Eluemunor, rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams and starter Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and safety Patrick Chung (who also has lingering heel and chest injuries) have missed practice due to illness this week.
A key component of the defense, Kyle Van Noy, was a late addition to the injury report. After practicing during the week, Van Noy missed practice on Friday due to the illness. With most of the linebacking unit on the injured list, the addition of Van Noy to the injury report–especially so late in the week–is concerning.
Other than Izzo and Van Noy, all the ill players returned to practice on Friday and made the trip to Houston. The Patriots will have to re-assess them and make a decision for availability, but for once playing in prime time pays off as they will have extra time to rest, hydrate and recover before game time.
ALREADY RULED OUT:
Along with Izzo, two Patriots were ruled out and did not travel to Texas: Rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart who played just 43 snaps on defense so far in 2019–is out with a head injury (all stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted); starting cornerback Jason McCourty–who missed last week’s win over the Cowboys–is out with a groin injury.
McCourty is a big loss, but last week against Dallas backup cornerback J.C. Jackson stepped in and allowed just three catches on six targets for 24 yards covering Michael Gallup (per PFF). Jackson also picked-up a ticky-tacky defensive pass interference, but overall had his usual strong game.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FROM INJURY:
With all the illness this week, buried in the news cycle is the return of two key targets for quarterback Tom Brady. Both Mohamed Sanu (ankle injury) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) are expected to play Sunday night. Both left with injuries against Philadelphia and both missed the Dallas game.
OTHER WALKING WOUNDED:
Other key injuries in New England includes back-up linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley–a stalwart against the run–limited all week with a knee injury. Edge rusher John Simon has been on the injury report with an elbow injury since the bye week and he was finally removed from the injury list on Friday and should be ready to go again.
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Brady and top wide receiver Julian Edelman were both on the injury report again as well. Brady with the right elbow that popped up on the list last week (and looked fine against Dallas) and Edelman with a shoulder injury. Edelman has been dinged-up all season yet continues to show up and play well.
SPECIAL TEAMS INJURIES:
On the special teams unit, Matthew Slater has been limited all week with a hamstring injury. Nate Ebner–another Patriot seemingly playing the entire 2019 season with one ailment or another–is limited with both ankle and back injuries. Both are tough and likely will need to be held back physically by the training staff to keep them off the field.
HOUSTON TEXANS INJURIES:
For the Houston Texans, they’ve had their hands-full with injuries in 2019 most of the season–especially on defense. The biggest loss was All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt landing on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle during the week eight win over Oakland. With five season of 16 or more sacks on his resume, his loss (especially with Jadeveon Clowney traded to Seattle) remains huge for Houston.
Another injury just this week can disrupt the Texans on Sunday night. Starting right tackle and 2019 first round draft pick Tytus Howard was placed on injured reserve Saturday night ending his season.
Howard has been a rock at right tackle and despite a partial ACL tear in week six, returned in week nine and continued to play well. He practiced all week but suffered a set-back. This is a huge loss for Houston as back-ups Roderick Johnson (the likely starter) and Chris Clark (yes, the same Chris Clark who exposed Peyton Manning to all those hits while “blocking” for him in Denver) represent a big step backwards in physical talent and play on the field.
Other than Howard, backup defensive end Carlos Watkins has been ruled out. Three key defensive players are questionable, with starting end Angelo Blackson (who was on the practice squad for a few months in 2017 here in New England), edge rusher Brennan Scarlett (one of the few productive pass rushers for Houston this season) and cornerback and former 2018 first round draft pick Gareon Conley.
Houston is actually getting a number of key defensive healthy at last as starting cornerbacks Bradley Roby and rookie Lonnie Johnson are expected to play after being removed from the injured list this week. Also, starting safety Justin Reid and top backup safety veteran Mike Adams both cleared concussion protocol and are expected to be able to go on Sunday night.
On offense, Houston should have speedy deep threat wide receiver Will Fuller available as he was removed from the injury list on Friday after having been limited earlier in the week with a hamstring injury.
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01