In three days, the New England Patriots will play their third game of the season as they host the Houston Texans. The Patriots suffered a string of injuries against the New Orleans Saints, but most players look to be ready to play on Sunday. Hopefully one starter will regain their health and return to practice, but everyone else should be available.
Let’s take a look at the injury report (via patriots.com):
Did Not Practice
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
DT Vincent Valentine (knee)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
The Patriots have plenty of depth at running back and defensive tackle so there’s no need to rush either Burkhead or Valentine back to the field. Look for an expanded role with Dion Lewis if Burkhead is sidelined and there’s a chance that Lewis and James White could have big games. Valentine hasn’t played yet this season and will likely be behind Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Lawrence Guy, and Adam Butler on the depth chart.
The potential loss of Cannon is definitely a concern because that would force Cameron Fleming to start and likely face J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus all game. That’s not a good sign.
On the flip side, Cannon was present at the start of practice in the same way that Rob Gronkowski was present on Wednesday, before Gronkowski was ultimately listed as “did not practice.” Gronk returned to the practice field on Thursday, so maybe there’s hope for Cannon, although it’s the concussion that is more likely keeping him away.
TE Rob Gronkowski (groin)
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)
WR Chris Hogan (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (thumb)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)
Gronkowski returned to practice in a limited capacity, a clear upgrade over Wednesday and a positive sign for his availability on Sunday. While the Patriots won’t feel a need to rush him back to the field, it’s good to see him practicing. Receivers Amendola, Dorsett, and Hogan also project to be available on Sunday.
Gilmore and Rowe and their respective groin injuries raise questions about their availability, but the Texans don’t offer much receiver depth. Maybe this points to Malcolm Butler drawing DeAndre Hopkins in coverage and an expanded role for Jonathan Jones.
Hightower and Slater could return to the field, but don’t be surprised if they get an extra week of rest to be especially certain of their health since both have battled nagging injuries their whole careers.