The Patriots head west for their left coast double-header without several key players due to injury.
According to the final injury report of the week, New England ruled out the three players for Monday night's matchup against the Cardinals: CB Jalen Mills (groin), WR Jakobi Meyers (concussion), and OT Isaiah Wynn (foot). Although there's a slight chance he plays, running back Damien Harris (thigh) is officially listed as doubtful.
The Patriots also listed offensive linemen Trent Brown (illness) and Yodny Cajuste (calf/back) as questionable. Although both tackles practiced in a limited capacity over the last two sessions, Brown has been dealing with a flu-like illness that has affected his availability and effectiveness for weeks. Cajuste, on the other hand, didn't play last week vs. the Bills due to a calf injury and has now added a back ailment on top of the lower leg issue.
With several offseason decisions coming into question on offense, Bill Belichick's personnel decisions and tabbing Matt Patricia as the offensive line coach might be at the top of the list. The Patriots traded veteran guard Shaq Mason, didn't re-sign steady interior lineman Ted Karras, and flipped Brown (right to left) and Wynn (left to right) at offensive tackle.
The Patriots have fallen to 22nd in PFF's pass-blocking efficiency metric and are 25th in run-blocking grade. Last season, the Pats were fourth in pass-blocking efficiency and eighth in run-blocking grade under Raiders offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, who left for Las Vegas with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
If Brown and Cajuste are active on Monday night, the Pats will arguably have their "best five" along the offensive line after starting six different combinations over the last seven games. Assuming that's the case, New England's offensive line should look like this: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, RT Yodny Cajuste.
If either one of Brown or Cajuste cannot play, here are the most likely combinations:
- LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, RT Connor McDermott
- LT Connor McDermott, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG James Ferentz, RT Mike Onwenu
The Patriots will also be short-handed at the skill positions with Mac Jones's number one option, Jakobi Meyers, in concussion protocol after an illegal hit in the end zone at the end of the loss to the Bills. Without Meyers, New England will lean more on veterans DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne, while rookie Tyquan Thornton could play more as well.
To add depth at receiver, practice-squad wideout Lynn Bowden Jr. is a candidate for a practice squad elevation this week. Bowden was active in Week 9 against the Colts, playing a small role in the slot, and could potentially add another offensive weapon out of the backfield.
The Patriots will likely play another game without running back Damien Harris, who is doubtful due to a thigh injury he suffered on Thanksgiving night in Minnesota. Harris has a slight chance to play despite being a non-participant in all three practices this week.
Belichick was asked this week about managing Stevenson's workload, as the second-year running back has played on over 70% of the offensive snaps and sat out just one play versus the Bills. Outside of Stevenson and Harris, all other Pats running backs have managed just 16 yards on 17 carries this season, as rookies Pierre Strong (fourth round) and Kevin Harris (sixth round) have essentially been redshirted on offense, which is common in New England.
"We didn't really have the ball very much in the first half. I mean, 20-something plays or whatever it was. We'll manage the game the best we can with all of our players," Belichick said of Stevenson's high snap count.
Based on Belichick's response and Stevenson's workload all season, the Patriots will likely ride the Rhamondre train for another game with Harris out of the lineup for the second-straight week.
Defensively, starting corner Jalen Mills will miss his second consecutive game due to a groin injury. The Patriots secondary will probably look similar to last Thursday night against the Bills, with rookies Jack and Marcus Jones contributing more without Mills. The Pats third-rounder tied a season-high with 34 defensive snaps, along with a standout role on offense and as a returner, while Jack Jones played his second-most snaps of the season last week (57).
With the team staying on the west coast for the week between Monday night's pivotal matchup with the Cardinals and next Sunday's showdown with the Raiders, the question is whether any of the players who were ruled out for the first leg appear in the second contest?
Meyers and Mills are the two most likely candidates to play just the Raiders game out west, as the Pats wideout could clear concussion protocol next week and head out to Vegas. Mills was spotted working out on the rehab field during Saturday's practice before the team made the trip to Arizona, so hopefully, it's not a long-term injury for the veteran.
Another situation worth monitoring is second-year DT Christian Barmore's status. Barmore is on injured reserve due to a knee injury but is eligible to return next week in Las Vegas.
New England has until Monday at 4 pm ET to elevate players from the practice squad, and with coverage from Arizona during the practice week, we'll keep you updated on the injured Pats heading into Vegas.
The Patriots will play the first leg of their west coast double-header against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Monday at 8:15 pm ET.