For much of the season the Patriots were able to avoid the injury bug that seemed to be spreading quickly across the league. But lately New England has unfortunately been catching up in that department.
Things have been particularly grim on offense, where the Patriots have been hit especially hard along the offensive line. Starters Nate Solder, Bryan Stork and Sebastian Vollmer have all missed time due to injuries, and Ryan Wendell, Tre' Jackson, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon have been banged up as well.
The patchwork nature of the front is a going concern, especially at the tackle position where Solder is out for the year, Cannon has missed the last three games with a toe injury and Vollmer was forced out of the Redskins win with a concussion.
But the problems aren't limited to the offensive line. In the backfield the Patriots lost one of their most explosive players in Dion Lewis, who tore the ACL in his left knee last week and was placed on injured reserve. Lewis had emerged as a vital part of the attack and his playmaking ability will be missed.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Are you more concerned about the health of the offensive line or replacing Dion Lewis?
PFW's Andy Hart says...
Anytime the injuries are concentrated in one specific area that has to be the greatest concern. The Patriots finished the Redskins game with Cameron Fleming and four center/guards. That's not the ideal way to run an offense and if they're forced to continue doing that there will be some negative effects.
Dave DeGuglielmo has done an amazing job keeping things together in the face of adversity. He's been without all five projected starters at various points and the offense continues to be productive. But at some point it's tough to keep scheming around the injuries and it's inevitable that the game plan will be impacted by the absences.
The injury I'm most concerned about is Vollmer's because he's the only I have faith in at left tackle. If Tom Brady can't get comfortable behind the guys blocking, then the offense will eventually take a hit. Hopefully Vollmer will be back in the mix soon.
PFW's Paul Perillo says...
The state of the offensive line is a major concern but I've seen Bill Belichick and his staff work their way around such problems in the past. Tom Brady will find a way to get rid of the ball quickly enough to mitigate the situation.
What I'm really worried about is how he's going to do that without Lewis. Lewis has been a weapon for Brady and the offense all season. He's consistently taken short dump-offs and screens and made big yards after the catch. His ability to make tacklers miss in the open field was a huge part of the offense over the first half of the year.
I have no doubt that James White and others will fill in, but they won't be able to do what Lewis did, and I'm afraid that will have a negative impact on the production. It's not the end of the world because Brady and Rob Gronkowski are still there, but it's a significant blow.