There was something of a mystery that unfolded at Patriots practice on Thursday, when a player wearing No. 42 was out on the field. Another, wearing 35, caused a stir, too, before he was identified as veteran Breon Borders. For a while, though, no one quite knew who the other guy was, and NESN’s Zack Cox labeled him on Twitter as, “No. 42 as yet unidentified.”
In time, though, the player was finally ID’d, with Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald getting to the bottom of the question: It is Azizi Hearn, an undrafted rookie from UCLA.
The team later announced that Hearn, as well as Borders, were added to the practice group this week as the team seeks depth in a defensive backfield that has been battered by injuries.
Borders has appeared in 32 career NFL games with six franchises—Buffalo, Jacksonville, Washington, Tennessee, Arizona and Chicago. But he has been with a handful more franchises, originally signed by the Raiders and getting practice stints with Houston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Miami. He was last with the Falcons, who waived him on roster cut-down day.
But Borders had been suspended for the first two weeks of the season for violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been reinstated.
Defensive Backs Riddled With Injuries
The Patriots enter Week 3 with something of a mess on their hands in the defensive backfield, injury-wise. Marcus Jones has a torn labrum and will be placed on injured reserve, meaning he will be out for four games. He will join Jack Jones on the IR, as he tries to recover from a bad hamstring injury.
The one positive is that the other Jones in the defensive backfield mix—Jonathan Jones—did practice this week, though he was limited. Jones is recovering from an ankle injury suffered last week, and he was inactive for Sunday night’s game against Miami.
And the Patriots still have their Top 2 cornerbacks healthy. Rookie Christian Gonzalez (129 snaps in two games) has been a revelation through two games, and has graded out on Pro Football Focus with an 82.6—fourth in the NFL among corners. The team’s other top corner has been Myles Bryant (97 snaps), and he graded out with a 61.8.
Defense Has Lived up to Billing
Despite the injuries, the Patriots defense has held its own against very two potent offenses in Weeks 1 and 2. New England started Week 1 down, 16-0, against Philadelphia thanks to a pick-6 thrown by quarterback Mac Jones and a fumble by Ezekiel Elliott that allowed the Eagles to start to the New England 25-yard line. The Eagles scored only four field goals in the rest of the game, and scored 34 points on Minnesota in Week 2.
The Patriots then held the Dolphins, who scored 36 points in their opener, to 24 points in Week 2.
“The cornerback position has unfortunately been thinned out here over the last couple of weeks,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But I thought those guys competed well. Obviously, this was a pretty good group of receivers and quarterback. We had our good moments. I thought those guys competed well and gave us a great effort, and collectively, defensively, we had two bad series that kind of tilted the game there. So, have to do a better job in those two situations.”