The New England Patriots were down a handful of regular contributors for their Week 5 game against the Detroit Lions — including starting quarterback Mac Jones — but they still came away victoriously. The team won 29-0 in front of a home crowd, improving to 2-3 on the year.
While there is a lot to feel good about coming out of that game, there also are some questions related to the Patriots’ overall health. More players suffered injuries on Sunday, after all.
Obviously, it remains to be seen just how serious all of the issues are. For now, however, let’s take a look at the players who were either announced as injured or caught our eye after re-watching the game.
WR Nelson Agholor: Agholor was blocking on the perimeter on Rhamondre Stevenson’s 49-yard scamper in the first quarter, but after the play was seen grabbing his right hamstring. He subsequently spent some time on a stationary bike on the sidelines, but did return in the second period. His comeback was a brief one, and he exited the contest again after failing to catch a Bailey Zappe throw that turned into an interception. Agholor was ultimately announced as questionable to return, but he did not reenter the contest and saw his day come to an end with just seven snaps played.
RB Damien Harris: One half of the Patriots’ prolific running back duo, Harris also suffered a hamstring injury on Sunday. His final snap came on the last snap of the first quarter, a run for no gain on 2nd-and-1. The fourth-year man did not obviously get nicked up on the play, but he was not spotted again for the rest of the day. After initially being announced as questionable in the second quarter, he was ruled out at the half. Rhamondre Stevenson, the only other active running back, served as the bell-cow down the stretch.
CB Jonathan Jones: The Patriots’ starting cornerback was in coverage on an incomplete pass intended for tight end T.J. Hockenson in the early fourth quarter, celebrating the fact that the play was an unsuccessful one for the Detroit offense. However, he was slow to get up afterwards and limped to the sideline. The veteran was later announced as questionable to return to the game because of an ankle issue; he never came back.
CB Jalen Mills: The Lions’ second biggest play of the day — a 31-yard pass from Jared Goff to Josh Reynolds in the late fourth quarter — ended with Jalen Mills on the ground. The starting cornerback absorbed some friendly fire from teammate Jabrill Peppers coming over to help make a play, but he did get up and eventually walked over to the Patriots bench. No injury was announced.
What this means for the Patriots
While there were only four injuries spotted while re-watching the Patriots’ win over the Lions, the players involved are all big names: Damien Harris is the team’s RB1; Nelson Agholor is ranked second in targets, receptions and receiving yards; Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills are the starting outside cornerback tandem.
Losing any of them for an extended period of time would be a blow to New England’s offense and defense, respectively. Luckily for the team one player already gave the all-clear immediately after the contest: Jones spoke with reporters in the locker room after the win, stating that he would be “good” and “ready to go”.
Likewise, it appears Mills only had his wind knocked out of him; he was spotted in the postgame locker room as well without any obvious limitations.
As for Harris and Agholor, their statuses are up in the air at this point in time. If forced to miss any time, the Patriots would naturally look at the depth chart to find a way to replace them.
In Agholor’s case there are several candidates, led by Kendrick Bourne and rookie Tyquan Thornton. Both are capable of playing a similar role as the veteran: Bourne, because he was the next man up in three-receiver sets against Detroit and is also capable of filling the Z-role; Thornton because he offers a similar profile as a speedster.
Replacing Harris, meanwhile, will be harder. Rhamondre Stevenson would be the undisputed RB1 if he were to miss some time, but who would join him is anyone’s guess. The Patriots have rookie Pierre Strong Jr. on their active roster, as well as J.J. Taylor and Kevin Harris on the practice squad; Ty Montgomery remains on injured reserve.
Before going too deep into theoretical territory, however, let’s stick with what we do know: the Patriots will release their first injury report of the week on Wednesday afternoon, and it will give us more information about Harris, Agholor and the rest of the roster heading into the Week 6 road game against the Cleveland Browns.