The Patriots are heading into a crucial contest in Las Vegas and are getting some big-time reinforcements along the defensive line.
After he returned to practice this week at the University of Arizona, New England has activated second-year standout Christian Barmore from injured reserve, making him eligible to play versus the Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
Barmore hasn't played in a game since the Patriots win over the Browns in Week 6 due to a nagging knee injury. He was questionable heading into the game in Cleveland but attempted to give it a go, and unfortunately aggravated the injury. The team waited a few weeks to place Barmore on injured reserve, opting to shut him down for a four-game stretch that included three games in 12 days.
To make room for Barmore on the 53-man roster, the Patriots placed OT Isaiah Wynn on injured reserve. Wynn has not played since Week 11, and was effectively benched at times for his play at right tackle. With Wynn in a contract year in the final seaon of his rookie deal, his future with the organization is very much uncertain.
The 2021 second-round pick logged 62 quarterback pressures in his first 23 games in the NFL, bringing an interior presence that netted one of the highest double-team rates in the league.
Adding Barmore to a pass rush that ranks third in sacks (45) and second in team pressure rate (26.4%) gives the Patriots defense as formidable of a pressure package as you'll see in the NFL. With third-year edge rusher Josh Uche (ten sacks) emerging alongside Pro Bowler Matthew Judon (14.5 sacks) and Deatrich Wise (6.5 sacks), opposing offensive lines will have their hands full blocking this group.
Although it's good injury news for the Patriots defense, the Pats downgraded running Damien Harris to out with a thigh injury on Saturday.
New England's top two running backs landed on the injury report this week, with Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) questionable for Sunday in Las Vegas. Stevenson, who returned to practice on Friday, could still play against the Raiders.
Still, the Patriots figure to lean more on rookie running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris on Sunday. The first-year duo combined for 116 total yards and two touchdowns in Monday's win over the Cardinals. Strong showed off his 4.37-speed on a 44-yard run and a game-sealing 19-yarder, while Harris ran through two tacklers on his 14-yard touchdown run. The team did not elevate practice-squad running back J.J. Taylor, signaling they have confidence in the first-year backs.
The Patriots also elevated linebacker Jamie Collins from the practice squad for the third time this season. Collins played five snaps on defense last week against the Cardinals, serving as depth on the edge of the defense, mainly on early downs.
Lastly, the Raiders activated slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller from injured reserve. Waller's hamstring injury has held him out since Week 5, while Renfrow hasn't suited up since Week 9. Although they might not be a full go yet, adding the two dynamic receivers to Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs presents a huge challenge for the Patriots defense.
The Patriots are traveling to Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon after spending the week at the University of Arizona in Tucson and will face the Raiders at 4:05 pm ET on Sunday.