The New England Patriots suffered some considerable injuries before and during their 2019 season. Not only did 12 of their players end the year on an injury-related reserve list, they also had to see numerous players go down during the year with short-term ailments that impacted their availability and performance for either the short or the long term. Heading into 2020, getting back to full health will therefore be a key for the Patriots.
And as a look at those who suffered major injuries last season shows, the team is scheduled will get some considerable talent back next season. Let’s break it down in four different categories to get a clearer picture.
The established veterans
OC David Andrews
FB James Develin
K Stephen Gostkowski
LB Brandon King
All four players listed under this category would have played major roles on the Patriots last season: David Andrews is the team’s starting center, James Develin and Stephen Gostkowski are its fullback and place kicker, respectively, with Brandon King being a core special teams presence. The latter two injuries did not have as big an impact down the stretch, but the absences of Andrews and Develin certainly hurt the Patriots in 2019 and their ability to consistently move the football on offense.
The good news for the Patriots is that all four should be back with the team next year. While Andrews is no lock to return after having missed all of 2019 due to blood clots in his lungs, he sounded optimistic when talking about his outlook last month. Develin (neck) and King (quad), meanwhile, are also expected to return. The biggest question mark might very well be Gostkowski (hip), who carries a $5.3 million cap hit and had his fair share of ups and downs recently.
DE Keionta Davis
FB Jakob Johnson
WR Gunner Olszewski
DE Derek Rivers
Keionta Davis and Derek Rivers both saw their seasons come to an end before they even began, as they were both placed on season-ending injured reserve on roster cutdown day. While an undisclosed injury knocked Davis out for the year, Rivers hurt his knee in preseason and is already working towards a comeback — alongside the aforementioned Brandon King — and should be expected back at least in training camp if not sooner.
The other two men listed above, meanwhile, were moved to injured reserve during the regular season: Jakob Johnson, the first-year man who arrived in New England through the NFL’s International Pathway Program, was brought to the 53-man roster to replace Develin only to be moved to IR himself four games later due to a shoulder injury. Gunner Olszewski served as the Patriots’ primary punt returner but was knocked out for the year due to hamstring and ankle injuries.
Just like Davis and Rivers neither of the two is a lock to make the roster in 2020 regardless of their injury statuses.
The ones that caught the Foxboro Flu
OT Yodny Cajuste
OG Hjalte Froholdt
SS Malik Gant
CB D’Angelo Ross
While two rookies were placed on injured reserve during the season in Johnson and Olszewski, four others were already on the list at that point after being shut down for the year before reaching the necessary deadline for potential reactivation at a later point. While Malik Gant and D’Angelo Ross — both of whom suffered undisclosed injuries — are only expected to compete for depth spots in a deep defensive backfield in 2020, both Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt will be players to watch during the offseason.
After all, New England’s offensive line could see some changes in the upcoming months: starting left guard Joe Thuney could leave via free agency, which might push Froholdt into a starting spot after he missed all of his rookie season due to shoulder injury. Cajuste, who missed all of 2019 after recovering from offseason quad surgery, is the frontrunner to earn the third tackle spot and might even compete for a starting role with right tackle Marcus Cannon.
The non-season-ending injuries
As noted above, the Patriots also suffered a series of injuries that did not turn out to be season-ending. The most noteworthy of which are the ones that forced wide receiver N’Keal Harry and starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn to be placed on temporary injured reserve: Harry hurt his ankle in preseason and missed considerable time before returning in early November, while Wynn injured his toe in Week 2 and was forced to sit out the next eight games. Both men are expected to play big roles for New England’s offense in 2020.
The same has to be said about two other wide receivers, Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu. Both played through injuries — Edelman hurt his shoulder, knee and chest, Sanu his ankle — last season and had only a limited impact down the stretch. Sanu in particular could benefit from returning to full strength to build some chemistry with another player who dealt with injuries in 2019: quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady, who is scheduled to enter free agency for the first time in his career next month, hurt his elbow last season and was limited because of the issue for more than a month. While he did not miss any playing time, getting the elbow back to normal will be imperative and should help Brady get more comfortable within New England’s offense again in 2020 (if he returns, of course).