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Patriots’ wide receiver situation looks dire ahead of pivotal matchup with Bills

Related: Kendrick Bourne among four Patriots added to Covid-19 reserve list

NFL: NOV 14 Browns at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The hits keep coming for the New England Patriots. Two days after their road loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the team was forced to send four more players to the reserve/Covid-19 list: wide receiver Kendrick Bourne as well as linebackers Harvey Langi, Ronnie Perkins and Cameron McGrone.

The four have joined running back J.J. Taylor as well as offensive lineman Yasir Durant and tight end Dalton Keene on the Coronavirus list.

Bourne is the only member of New England’s active roster to test positive on Monday — Langi and Perkins are on injured reserve, McGrone is on the non-football injury list — but his status puts further pressure on an already thinned-out wide receiver group. The Patriots, after all, lost two wideouts to injury during the game against the Colts.

Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry were both unable to finish the game. Agholor suffered a head injury in the third quarter and is likely in the NFL’s concussion protocol. No official designation was announced for Harry, who replaced Agholor in the lineup down the stretch, but the former first-round draft pick appeared to hurt either his head or upper body late during the contest.

With Harry’s status uncertain and neither Bourne nor Agholor guaranteed to return this week, the Patriots are left with only four healthy wide receivers under contract:

  • 53-man roster: Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
  • Practice squad: Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon

To say that the situation is less than ideal would be an understatement. Meyers has caught a team-high 65 passes this season for 664 yards and a touchdown, but the rest of the group is one massive question mark: Olszewski, Wilkerson and Nixon combine for a grand total of one reception this year, a 22-yard catch by Olszewski in Week 7.

In fact, Olszewski is the only one of the three to have caught a pass in an NFL regular season game so far. His main contributions are as a return man rather than a receiver.

New England does have solid depth at the tight end and running back positions to help make up for potential shortcomings at wide receiver. However, losing even one of Bourne, Agholor or Harry would stress the team’s skill position depth.

Bourne and Agholor being out or limited in particular would be a definitive blow heading into the pivotal AFC East showdown with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Bourne leads the Patriots with 667 receiving yards and has caught five touchdowns; Agholor has netted 36 receptions for 450 yards and three scores thus far.

“Every day, you kind of walk in here and if our medical people came in one day and said we have 20 people positive, I don’t think any of us would be surprised,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on Monday, a few hours before Bourne and company were sent to the Covid-19 list.

“It’s nice to hear that we have no positives or that we have no symptoms. Those are great words to hear, but I don’t think it would surprise any of us. We’ve already seen five, six, seven teams, whatever it is, have a wide-ranging problem on their team, between staff and players, or both. Who’s next? I don’t know. Maybe nobody. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was anybody.”

The Patriots’ situation is concerning, but they are not the only team in the league struggling with Covid-19 at the moment. Their Week 16 opponent is in the same boat, for example: the Bills had to send three players to the Coronavirus reserve list on Monday, bringing the total to six.

Defensive end A.J. Epenesa and practice squad members Bobby Hart and Mike Love have joined a group already consisting of starting offensive linemen Dion Dawkins and Jon Feliciano as well as linebacker Tyrel Dodson. Dawkins, Feliciano and Dodson all missed Buffalo’s game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.