All week, we've been monitoring the rapidly deteriorating health of New England's offensive line, which has been dealing both with injuries and potential COVID exposures. Suddenly, the Patriots defensive backfield has also become a concern.
As the team boarded its plane for Houston Saturday afternoon, it divulged that defensive back Jalen Mills will not play against the Texans tomorrow. Originally listed as questionable for this game, Mills dealt with a hamstring problem that limited his practice time this week.
In addition to Mills, who's played significant minutes thus far in 2021 for the Patriots secondary, Justin Bethel now has a hamstring issue that makes him questionable for tomorrow's game. He was added to the injury list earlier today. Bethel typically appears on special teams, but given the growing number of injured defensive backs on this roster, he might have had to contribute on defense as well.
Meanwhile, rookie Shaun Wade was ruled out on Friday as a result of a concussion sustained this week. Wade has yet to be active for any games this year, but add him to an increasing list of Patriots d-backs who've incurred some sort of physical ailment in recent days.
Cornerback Jonathan Jones (ankle), safety Kyle Dugger (hamstring), and safety/special teamer Cody Davis (knee) have also practiced on a limited basis this week with their respective health problems. All this just a few days after the team traded perhaps its best corner, Stephon Gilmore, to Carolina. Gilmore had been on the PUP (physically unable to perform lit), however, and hadn't been on the field at all this season.
Nevertheless, New England's healthy number of defensive backs is quickly diminishing. Starter J.C. Jackson and reserve Joejuan Williams are the only ones who weren't listed on the injury report this week, although Jackson played with a knee injury last week versus Tampa Bay.
In all likelihood, the Patriots will have to exercise their option to promote up to two practice squad players to augment the roster for Sunday's game in Houston. New England already ruled out two starters on the offensive line, right tackle Trent Brown (calf) and right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen), who did not practice at all this week. We continue to await definitive word on the statuses of left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu, both of whom were added to the COVID list this week and are, for the time being, not on the active roster.
Stay tuned, as more moves could be forthcoming either later today or certainly by tomorrow. It might be safe to assume that one player from the secondary and one from the O-line will get promotions. At the moment, New England has exactly five available offensive linemen on the active roster. It might behoove them to bring up at least one backup, just to be safe.
One final note: rookie edge rusher Ronnie Perkins' status was also downgraded from questionable to out because of an ankle injury that limited him in practice this week as well. He's been inactive for every game thus far in 2021, though, either due to injury or as a healthy scratch.
Late Saturday, the Patriots added Brown to their injured reserve list, while calling up a trio of O-linemen from the practice squad. They now have sufficient depth for the Texans game, but which players occupy which spots remains to be seen. All we can be certain of at this point is that starting center and co-captain David Andrews will stay where he is. The other four spots could be filled by any number of iterations.
Meanwhile, versatile defensive back Myles Bryant got his second call-up from the practice squad this season to add depth at that position.