The New England Patriots were forced to send five of their players to the Covid-19 reserve list this week, bringing the number of those currently unavailable to eight. While the league modifying its quarantine protocols would allow all of them to return ahead of this week’s game, there is not guarantee that they will do so.
Even if they are back, there is no guarantee they will be able to seamlessly resume their previous roles. Just look at wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who missed an entire week of practice and was virtually a non-factor during the Patriots’ game versus the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots are therefore facing considerable questions as it relates to their Covid-19 situation. They are not alone, though: their Week 17 opponents are also in a difficult situation — maybe even more so than New England, at least as of Wednesday.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, after all, had to send 15 players to reserve/Covid-19 since Monday. That group includes some of the team’s most important players.
Center Brandon Linder and left guard Andrew Norwell tested positive, as did TE1 Chris Manhertz and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. Defensive tackles Malcom Brown and DaVon Hamilton were moved to the Coronavirus list as well, joining a group that furthermore includes Josh Allen — the team’s sack leader — as well as fellow starting linebackers Myles Jack and K’Lavon Chaisson.
Usually, all eight of these players would see significant practice and playing time this week against the Patriots. Now, their respective statuses are up in the air. And not just that: there is also the threat of Covid-19 continuing its spread through the building.
The list of players currently available might look quite different between now and kickoff on Sunday, not just due to the league’s new protocols. Both the Patriots and Jaguars have to be prepared to make adjustments on the fly given the recent developments in both organizations.
“You either can replace people with another person, or you can replace them through scheme. We’re still going through that process now, who we want to put out on the field, what the game plan is for this week,” said Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo earlier this week.
Mayo’s position group has been hit hard by Covid-19 recently. Five of New England’s linebackers are currently on the Coronavirus list: Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Brandon King and Harvey Langi.
Even with new protocols in place, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding those five players and the other three currently sidelined (DE Deatrich Wise Jr, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, QB Brian Hoyer).
“We’ve taken pride over the years of being able to adjust on the fly, and not being so rigid in our thinking,” Mayo added. “Guys that we have, or guys that they have, it really doesn’t matter. It always comes down to the guys that are available, and those guys that are available playing good football.”
Covid-19 or not, the Patriots and Jaguars are set to kick off their Week 17 meeting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.