The Patriots were dealt some tough news last night, as multiple media reports are indicating that linebacker Dane Fletcher tore his ACL while covering a punt in the first quarter of the Patriots' 7-6 preseason victory over the Saints.
Fletcher's injury is a really tough blow for the depth of the Patriot defense. Fletcher, while not expected to start, likely would have played a key role in 2012 for the Patriots, as a linebacker who could back up multiple spots, and start as necessary. It's also a tough blow for his development, as before his thumb injury that cost him most of last year, Fletcher was one of the Patriots most promising young defenders. Fletcher was also entering the final year of his contract in 2012, but should still return as a restricted free agent next offseason.
With Fletcher out, the Patriots' depth at linebacker has certainly thinned. Brandon Spikes seems to be struggling to stay healthy, and last night, Fletcher started in his place at middle linebacker. When Fletcher went down, rookie Dont'a Hightower moved over to the middle, with veteran Bobby Carpenter moving into his spot at strong-side linebacker.
At this point, because of the injury to Fletcher, it would seem that Carpenter is a lock to make the final roster. In addition, the Patriots will almost certainly keep one or more of a group that includes Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian, and Mike Rivera.
In other Patriots injury news, wide receiver Britt Davis also went down with an injury last night against the Saints, appearing to injure his right shoulder after landing on it in the fourth quarter. No word yet on the seriousness of the injury for Davis, who dropped a pass but also scored on a three yard touchdown last night against the Saints. Davis is considered a longshot to make the final roster, but is a strong practice squad candidate.