The New England Patriots’ 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints hurt, both figuratively and literally. One week after losing defensive cornerstones Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez for an extended period of time, after all, it saw more of its players go down with injury — a group including three more players on the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s assess the damage after re-watching the game to find out what it might mean for the Patriots moving forward.
WR Demario Douglas: The rookie wideout took a shot to the head in the late first quarter, while hauling in a 24-yard reception. He initially was allowed to stay in the game, but was removed from the contest in the second quarter and eventually moved into the NFL concussion protocol.
G Michael Onwenu: New England’s starting right guard was not on the field for the Patriots’ final possession of the first half, and instead had his left ankle evaluated by the team’s medical staff on the sideline. What had happened? It was hard to tell, but it appeared he might have been stepped on by center David Andrews on the previous drive. Onwenu stayed in the game for the remainder of that series, but by his final snap looked unable to fully plant his left leg. He did not return.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster was slow to get up after catching a 3-yard pass from quarterback Mac Jones midway through the third quarter. He was accompanied to the sideline by members of New England’s training staff, headed to the blue medical tent, and was ruled out as well with a head injury.
S Jabrill Peppers: Following a short run in the third quarter, Peppers remained on the ground and was seen massaging his right calf. He did come out of the game briefly and departed for the locker room, but oddly enough was announced as questionable to return because of an illness. He eventually did reenter the game and ended up playing 53 total snaps on the day.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: Bentley appeared to injure his shoulder on a Saints touchdown drive in the early fourth quarter. He was involved in tackle attempts on the previous two plays, and after the score itself remained sitting on the field holding his right arm. He was announced as questionable to come back into the game, but never actually returned.
What this means for the Patriots
Excluding the aforementioned Matthew Judon Christian Gonzalez, the Patriots entered Week 5 with 10 players listed on their injury report. And as if losing 34-0 was not already bad enough, it appears that number is only going to grow.
While it appears Jabrill Peppers will be fine after returning to the game in the fourth quarter, the outlook is less clear for the other four players shaken up against New Orleans.
Wide receivers Demario Douglas and JuJu Smith-Schuster in particular are in a difficult spot after sustaining head injuries on Sunday. The NFL is, understandably, playing it safe when it comes to these types of ailments, meaning that their status for the upcoming road game against the Las Vegas Raiders is very much in question.
If one or both are unable to go, the Patriots would be down to three healthy wide receivers on their active roster: DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Kayshon Boutte. Running back/receiver hybrid Ty Montgomery would likely also factor into the equation in that case, as might practice squad options Jalen Reagor and T.J. Luther, but the group as a whole is naturally worse off with Douglas and Smith-Schuster being TBD this week.
The wide receiver position has been a concern all season, and the same is true along the offensive line. Michael Onwenu’s ankle injury is just the latest hit taken by the group.
It remains to be seen what the issue means for his short- and long-term availability, but it has the potential to put even more pressure on an offensive line that already was without left guard Cole Strange (knee) for the last two weeks. With both out down the stretch on Sunday, the Patriots were forced to turn to rookie Atonio Mafi and first-time guard Riley Reiff to man the spots flanking center David Andrews.
The results were as expected, and a continuation of the O-line’s overarching theme this season: instability and inconsistency. Onwenu missing any time would be par the course for the battered unit, unfortunately.
As for Ja’Whaun Bentley, his injury did not appear overly serious on the field. However, with the Patriots already down Judon and Gonzalez any missed time — and be it only in practice — would be another blow.
The Patriots will hold a walkthrough on Tuesday before returning to a traditional practice Wednesday. Later that day, they will also release their first injury report of the week.
New England will take on the Las Vegas Raiders no the road in Week 6. Kickoff at Allegiant Stadium is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.