The Patriots were hoping some of their injuries would clear up over the break, but that hasn’t been the case. New England had already ruled five players out of their Monday night contest by Sunday, four due to injury.
Burkhead will be missing his third straight game since suffering a foot injury in Week 3. He was limited in Week 4 against Buffalo and has been sidelined ever since. As for Gordon, he suffered what appeared to be a scary injury against the New York Giants but reportedly avoided major injury and was absent from practice leading up to Week 7.
The fifth inactive is defensive lineman Michael Bennett who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team following a disagreement with one of the Patriots’ assistant coaches.
The other two inactives are offensive tackle Korey Cunningham and safety Patrick Chung. Chung is a bit of a surprise though he has been dealing with chest and heel injuries for a couple weeks. He is replaced by rookie Joejuan Williams.
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New Tight Ends Debut
In the wake of injuries to LaCosse and Izzo along with fullback Jakob Johnson who has been placed on injured reserve, the Patriots went out and signed free-agent tight ends Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson.
Watson was released by the Patriots ahead of their Week 6 contest but quickly brought back to fill an area of need. Tomlinson, meanwhile, played for both the Giants and Jets in the last few years and has shown versatility as a blocker, receiver, and even out of the backfield as a fullback.
Tomlinson’s presence could allow Sony Michel to finally break off a 100-plus yard game for the first time this season. Michel has excelled when LaCosse has been active for New England, but will now have to work with Tomlinson to find seems at the line.
Rookies Get a Chance
With so many injuries on the offensive side of the ball, it is a rare chance for rookie running back Damien Harris to dress for a crucial divisional game. Harris showed strong pass-catching ability out of the backfield in the preseason as well as a downhill, physical running style.
His presence could be just what New England needs to jumpstart their running game as they continue to look for answers on how to gain big chunks of yardage on the ground.
On defense, with Bennett suspended, rookie tackle Byron Cowart could get a chance to play a part in the Patriots’ pass rush on Monday night. Cowart surprised the New England coaching staff in the preseason with his element of interior pass-rushing but has only played sparingly so far in his first professional season.
New England may be looking for ways to disrupt Sam Darnold’s rhythm in the backfield and a quick, powerful rusher like Cowart could be the answer for New England’s defense.