Throughout the last half of the 2019 season, the New England Patriots have dealt with injuries at defensive back thinning out the unit.
While top stars like Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty have been fortunate, slot corners Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty along with safety Terrence Brooks have endured nagging injuries forcing them to miss at least a game. It was a perfect storm in New England’s Week 17 meeting with Miami in which the Dolphins shredded New England with short slants over the middle.
With the Tennessee Titans capable of doing similar things offensively as well as mixing in a power rushing attack more dynamic than most, it could spell problems for the Patriots if injuries prove too costly.
On a positive note, the Patriots will have Julian Edelman healthy for Saturday night’s Wild Card round matchup after injuries affected him all season. Edelman is reportedly dealing with serious injuries to his shoulder and knee though did provide a promising outlook for his status in the postseason.
The inactives list will be released 90 minutes before kickoff.
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Hard to believe at this point in the season the Patriots’ defensive woes would be a topic of conversation. But clearly, New England has missed Jason McCourty over the past six weeks. He has been active on two occasions but played very sparingly during those weeks.
In his place, rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams has been dressing and appears to be gaining confidence though he is still a bit raw. But without McCourty occupying the middle and using his speed to help cover a second or third option receiver, the Patriots have been playing more zone defense which hasn’t worked as well.
With McCourty healthy, the Patriots can stay true to their man defense packages and account for each of the Titans receivers. It also allows New England’s linebackers to focus on pass rushing or covering running backs and tight ends in passing routes.
Rest of the Inactives
As usual, rookie running back Damien Harris, quarterback Cody Kessler, tight end Ryan Izzo, and rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart should be sitting this one out. The last two have played sparingly at times this season and have looked good when given the opportunity. There just hasn’t been as many chances to get them in games during the home stretch.
Offensive guard Jermaine Eluemunor could join them as well, missing another contest after dressing and being deployed on New England’s field goal unit. Given Marcus Cannon’s injuries, New England has opted to dress extra tackle, Korey Cunningham, instead.
The Patriots did have perfect attendance at practice throughout the week, but in the postseason it needs to be about which players will give the team the best chance to win. McCourty, Jones, and Brooks may need to gut this one out to help give the Patriots’ defense the health boost it desperately needs.