As you have heard, the New England Patriots have placed fullback James Develin on injured reserve. And, as many people have written, including Doug Kyed on NESN and Bernd Buchmasser right here on Pats Pulpit, that means that the Patriots have lost a possibly important player for the season. Since only two players who were placed on IR Week 1 or later are allowed to come off the list again, that means either Develin, N’Keal Harry, or Isaiah Wynn will be spending the season on IR.
This brings up a few important questions.
Is one of the injuries thought to be season ending?
It’s hard to imagine that the Patriots would want their first-round draft pick, N’Keal Harry, to miss the entire season. Or that they would play the rest of the season without Isaiah Wynn, a guy who seemed to be playing very well at left tackle. Or that they would take a big part of their rushing attack, James Develin, out for the season. So, the first question is simple: Is one of the injuries worse than we thought?
Wynn apparently has turf toe, which I can’t imagine is season-ending, so this brings us to Develin and Harry. Now, Harry left the Lions game with a high ankle sprain, and hasn’t played since. I can’t imagine a high ankle sprain would end his rookie season. So that just leaves Develin. Clearly, it’s a neck, so that’s a serious concern, but multiple reporters are saying there is a strong feeling that it’s not season ending either.
The question I keep coming back to is: Why put Develin on IR if all of these seemingly important players will be able to come back?
I realize you don’t want to burn a roster spot by keeping Develin on the 53-man squad, but if it means being able to use all three players, I think that course of action would’ve made sense. Plus, his replacement — undrafted rookie Jakob Johnson — is already on the roster, so they wouldn’t even need to bring someone else up. Unless, as I said, one of their injuries is worse than what we’ve been led to believe.
Are the Patriots comfortable with their wide receiver depth?
This is an intriguing question, since the Patriots just cut Antonio Brown. They have, however, looked pretty good this year. Josh Gordon is a beast, Julian Edelman is Julian Edelman, and Phillip Dorsett has become one of the more reliable targets in the league. There’s also Jakobi Meyers, and Cameron Meredith is on the PUP list. Meredith has made an impact on the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints in the past, but it would be surprising if the Patriots are banking on a player who’s never played in their system and is coming off a knee injury.
Could they be happy with their depth right now? Yes. But if someone gets hurt, as Edelman did this week (although he may have avoided serious injury), or if someone slips up again (as Gordon has done in the past), they could look awfully thin all of a sudden. In that case, a big, physical, first-round pick could look pretty damn good coming off injured reserve. It seems silly to lose the ability to bring him back just three weeks into the season.
Are they in the process of making a move?
Admittedly, this is the most far fetched, but, could the Patriots be in the middle of trade negotiations for a player? That would potentially explain why they need the extra roster spot this week. Benjamin Watson’s suspension ends next week, so they don’t need a spot for him until then, and things can change drastically in a week.
Bill Belichick has a long history of making trades during the season, and, although the trade probably wouldn’t be for Jalen Ramsey, history says that the odds are a player acquired by trade mid season would have a solid impact on the team.
Whatever the reasons are for moving Develin to injured reserve, the Patriots are going to have to make a tough decision later this season. Either your left tackle of the future is going to miss his second straight year, your first-round pick is going to miss his rookie campaign, or one of the most important pieces to your running game is going to miss the remainder of the season. That’s a decision that I wouldn’t want to make.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats