On Friday, when they released their final injury report of the week, the New England Patriots already declared four players out: Wide receiver Danny Amendola, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and special teamer Matthew Slater will all not play today against the New Orleans Saints because of injury.
Yesterday evening, the Patriots added a fifth player to the list as Slater’s fellow special teamer Nate Ebner has been downgraded to "out". Ebner has been dealing with a shoulder injury lately and has been limited in practice all week long. As a result, the 28-year old will now miss his second game in a row.
Missing both Ebner and Slater for the second straight week obviously hurts New England’s special teams unit. After all, the duo is among the best special teamers in the NFL. Ebner, for example, led the Patriots in kicking game tackles last year while also playing the most special teams snaps. In short: When healthy, he is a core member of all four units.
But while Ebner getting downgraded is yet another injury-related blow to the team, the Patriots have been able to overcome his and Slater’s absence last week. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, albeit ultimately losing the game, the coverage units did look mostly good (the lone exception: back-to-back running into the punter penalties). It would therefore not be a surprise to see a repeat performance today.
Ebner being out also has implications on the Patriots’ salary cap: Per patscap.com’s Miguel Benzan, New England will receive yet another credit of $7,812.50 as part of Ebner’s roster bonus. Since the veteran appeared in all 16 games last year, the entire bonus was considered "likely to be earned" and hit the salary cap up front. For every game he is therefore out, New England will receive 1/16th of the total bonus sum as a credit.
With Ebner officially declared inactive, the Patriots will have to rule only two more players out for today’s game. The early favorites are offensive tackles Cole Croston and LaAdrian Waddle as well as tight end Jacob Hollister.