In two days, the New England Patriots will face the New Orleans Saints on the road. Today, the team released its final injury report of the week and it shows that the defending world champions will have to enter the contest without some of the team's core players in all three phases of the game.
Let’s take a look at the injury report (via patriots.com):
WR Danny Amendola (did not participate; concussion/knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (did not participate; knee)
WR Matthew Slater (did not participate; hamstring)
DT Vincent Valentine (did not participate; knee)
After practicing for the first time this regular season yesterday, Vincent Valentine was a no-show again today. Subsequently, the second-year defensive tackle was ruled out for Sunday's game. Even though Valentine has been a promising rookie last year and still projects to serve as a rotational tackle down the line, his loss actually is the one the team can most easily overcome.
The same cannot be said for the other three players who have been declared out: Danny Amendola led the Patriots in catches and receiving yards in week one and also served as the primary punt returner. Dont'a Hightower is the team's most valuable and versatile linebacker. Matthew Slater is among the league's best special teamers and – like Hightower – a leader on the team.
OT Marcus Cannon (limited participation; ankle)
SS Nate Ebner (limited participation; shoulder)
FS Devin McCourty (limited participation; groin)
All three players listed as questionable to play on Sunday have been limited through this week of practice. While they ultimately might still play on Sunday, their status is worth keeping a close eye on as the trio plays important roles on offense, defense and special teams. Overall, Devin McCourty would possibly be the biggest loss given the quality of the Saints' aerial attack and the fact that the defense is already without Dont'a Hightower.
On a positive note, however, two players were removed from the injury report: Rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler (knee) and Cameron Fleming (ankle), the team's third offensive tackle, were both full participants today.
While the Patriots' injury report changed quite a bit since yesterday, New Orleans' still looks the same:
OT Terron Armstead (did not participate; shoulder)
OT Zach Strief (did not participate; knee)
LB Stephone Anthony (limited participation; ankle)
DE Trey Hendrickson (limited participation; illness)
LB Nate Stupar (limited participation; hamstring)