FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Both the Patriots' and Buccaneers' backfields are hurting heading into this game, which could be consequential for tonight's matchup at Gillette.
On Friday, Patriots starting cornerback J.C. Jackson suffered a knee injury, while safety Kyle Dugger injured a hamstring on Thursday. Their ailments limited their practice time, yet both men will suit up for this historic matchup. Their health will be important to monitor throughout the night, however.
Even so, New England remains somewhat thin in the defensive backfield, with Joejuan Williams a healthy scratch (not listed on the injury report). Rookie corner Shaun Wade is as well, though he's been inactive for every game thus far in 2021. Practice squad call-up Myles Bryant will be on the 48-man game roster tonight to provide some depth. He can play either safety or corner if needed, as he did as a rookie in 2020.
The news is less positive for the Patriots at right tackle, where Trent Brown continues to be shelved for games because of a right calf injury that's lingered since the opening drive of the season. He'll be out of commission again tonight, despite another week of limited practice activity.
Both tackle spots are a concern for New England tonight, where left tackle Isaiah Wynn has a knee injury that limited him all week in practice, but he'll at least try to play. It'll be interesting to see if the Patriots stay with the same personnel grouping on the offensive line, which has struggled to protect rookie QB Mac Jones during the first three games.
At linebacker, the Patriots also have issues, with Ja'Whaun Bentley (shoulder), Kyle Van Noy (groin), and Josh Uche (back) all having had limited practice time this past week. But only Bentley will be inactive as a result. Van Noy and Uche will dress for this game. For the second straight week, practice squad 'backer Jahlani Tavai will also be available. He played significant minutes last week against the Saints when Bentley was injured.
Also of note for the Patriots tonight, wide receiver N'Keal Harry will make his regular season debut after coming off injured reserve this weekend. Anxious to see how he might be able to insert himself into the offense.
The remaining three inactive Patriots are healthy scratches and haven't had much impact on the game day roster this season: tight end Devin Asiasi (fourth straight week), rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, and rookie pass rusher Ronnie Perkins.
Across the field, Tampa Bay is going to play without several big-name players, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who badly injured his ribs a week ago against the L.A. Rams. Gronk was originally listed as doubtful to go tonight, but after not having practiced all week, it's no surprise that he won't be in uniform. Ditto for the Bucs' best pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul. Though he did manage to practice on a limited basis Friday, Pierre-Paul's shoulder issue will keep him out of tonight's game.
Bucs QB Tom Brady won't have valuable pass-catching back Giovani Bernard, who's nursing a knee injury, as is cornerback Jamel Dean. The Bucs are so banged up in their secondary that they not only signed veteran Richard Sherman this week, but also had to promote a practice squad corner, Rashard Robinson, to put forth enough bodies at that position.