LANDOVER, Md. – LB Dont'a Hightower's bad right shoulder kept him off the field at Buffalo a week ago, but he'll be back in the lineup today versus Washington, which should give an already potent Patriots D yet another boost.
Upon arrival at FedExField Sunday morning, we already knew that three injured Patriots wouldn't play today. New England downgraded RB Rex Burkhead (foot), safety Patrick Chung (heel), and safety/special teams contributor Nate Ebner (groin) Saturday afternoon before departing for the D.C. area.
Newly re-signed safety Jordan Richards, who played considerably on special teams during this first go-round with New England, will likely pick up the slack in that department with both Ebner and Chung sidelined today. Rookie CB Joejuan Williams could also figure into the special teams personnel units versus Washington. He's active for only the second time this season.
With Burkhead unable to go as well, it was thought that rookie draft choice Damien Harris might have an opportunity to suit up today. However, he's among the remaining deactivated Patriots as a healthy scratch (not listed on the injury report), most of whom have been frequent members of this list so far this season: O-linemen Korey Cunningham, QB Cody Kessler, and rookie DL Byron Cowart.
On the Redskins' side, starting QB Case Keenum is out with a foot injury, leaving either veteran Colt McCoy or rookie Dwayne Haskins under center versus a Patriots defense playing its best football right now.
Washington will be without its top two tight ends as well. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both dealing with concussions and were ruled out for this game on Friday. Starting right guard Brandon Scherff won't play, either, due to an ankle problem. So, that is a potential weakness the Patriots' defensive front might try to exploit this afternoon.
However, the Skins' offense will have rookie WR Terry McLaurin back after he was held out a week earlier with a hamstring injury. He could give banged up Washington help on that side of the ball.