Slowly but steadily it seems the New England Patriots are getting closer to full strength. While the team still had 15 players listed as questionable on its latest injury report, and later ruled out Adam Butler and J.J. Taylor for the upcoming game against the Houston Texans, it also saw the return of running back Sony Michel off injured reserve. Furthermore, the Patriots’ top cornerback is also expected to be back on the field on Sunday.
As first reported by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, all signs points towards Stephon Gilmore joining his teammates after having missed the last three games because of a knee injury. Gilmore, who hurt his knee in practice ahead of Week 8’s game versus the Buffalo Bills, was a limited participant all week but still took the trip to Houston on Saturday.
Now, he is set to make his return against an offense that has a highly talented group of wide receivers led by top-three Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. Gilmore’s return is therefore coming at a right time, as it bolsters a New England cornerback group that also includes J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant as well as D’Angelo Ross and Michael Jackson on the practice squad.
“I feel pretty good, just taking it day-by-day,” Gilmore said during a media conference call on Friday. “Looking forward to this week, trying to take it day-by-day, keep preparing like I’m going to play this week. ... I feel good. I feel real good. So, I just try to keep preparing. You know, I feel good just studying film, watching the Houston Texans and I’m looking forward to it.”
Gilmore is not the only questionable player who is expected to take the field on Sunday: running back Damien Harris, who has been dealing with ankle and chest injuries as of late, should also be good to go.
The second-year man has been New England’s top running back since returning from injured reserve in Week 4, and has gained 471 rushing yards on 85 attempts over the last six games. His status as the team’s number one early-down option is put somewhat in question given the aforementioned return of former first-round pick Sony Michel: Will Harris keep the job, or will the team try to introduce an even deeper rotation?
The Patriots also have Rex Burkhead and J.J. Taylor at their disposal as potential early-down backs, with James White serving in his usual role as the team’s receiving back.