The New England Patriots’ 27-20 loss against the Houston Texans was a bad one. Not only did the team hurt its chances of making the playoffs even more as it struggled on both offense and defense, it also lost two core contributors along the way — both of whom playing on the offensive side of the ball and being pivotal members of the operation.
Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look at the Patriots’ injury situation after their defeat against the Texans.
RB Rex Burkhead: The most promising season of Burkhead’s career so far appears to have come to an end in Houston. He was tackled while trying to get to the corner on a 3rd-and-1 play in the third quarter, and remained on the ground after the play was whistled dead. Burkhead was helped off the field and immediately went to the blue pop-up tent on the sideline for further evaluation before leaving the game on a cart. Just a short time later, the Patriots ruled him out for the remainder of the game with an apparent ACL injury. While the news has not yet been confirmed, the expectation is that an MRI will do just that.
OT Isaiah Wynn: While New England’s starting left tackle was listed as questionable with an ankle injury heading into the weekend, he still played every offensive snap before going down on the team’s final offensive drive: Wynn got rolled up from behind and appeared to have hurt either his right knee or ankle in the process. The third-year man, who spent time on injured reserve in both of his first two seasons in the NFL, walked off the field slowly and did not return given the limited opportunities he had to do so. The team did not announce an injury status, which has more to do with the time of the injury than its severity.
What this means for the Patriots
While it remains to be seen just how severe the injuries suffered by Burkhead and Wynn eventually turn out to be, the expectation is that at least one of the two will miss considerable time: if, or rather when, Burkhead’s torn ACL is confirmed, he will be sent to injured reserve and spend the remainder of the season there before heading into free agency next March.
Instead of getting too far ahead, however, let’s take a look at what his loss means for the 2020 Patriots.
Burkhead was in the middle of an impressive season as a versatile change-of-pace option in the Patriots’ offensive backfield. Before his injury, he had touched the football 92 times for a combined 466 yards and six touchdowns — ranking second on the team in all three categories. Needless to say that he was a valuable rotational cog in the team’s machinery before going down, and that replacing him will not be easy.
With the 30-year-old now likely to miss the remainder of the season, the Patriots’ primary running back group will consist of Damien Harris and Sony Michel as the early-down options and James White as the receiving back. New England also has undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor available to possibly fill Burkhead’s role, but he has not seen the field since Week 3. Either way, those four players will help replace him if he is indeed lost for the year.
As for Isaiah Wynn, his spot in the lineup was filled by Jermaine Eluemunor against the Texans. If the former first-round draft pick is forced to miss an extended period of time after leaving Sunday’s game, the educated guess is that either Eluemunor remains as the Patriots’ left tackle until Wynn is back — in case he is able to return in the first place, of course — or that rookie Michael Onwenu moves over from his starting right tackle spot.
New England has some depth at the position, but losing a player of Wynn’s caliber and importance no matter for how long would still be an enormous blow.
Obviously, however, there is a chance that he will be back just fine for next week’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals. The first injury report of the week, which will be released on Wednesday, will further clear up the picture.