The New England Patriots had a missing body at practice on Thursday, and perhaps even worse, they had a new name appear on the injury report.
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Will the Patriots Start Two Rookie Tackles?
Starting left tackle Jermaine Eluemunor didn’t practice on Thursday, which leaves major doubt he’ll play on Sunday when the Patriots travel to the Sunshine State for a rematch with their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
Eluemunor has had his share of issues staying healthy all season, but quite honestly, based on how poorly he played in last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots might be better off with him on the sidelines.
Eluemunor’s head wasn’t in the game on some key plays and his aloofness led to pressure or sacks on quarterback Cam Newton. As anemic as the Patriots’ offense has been in most weeks this season, the last thing the team needs is blown-off blocking assignments from its offensive line.
If Eluemunor cannot play, which is looking more likely, he will be replaced by rookie Justin Herron. If that’s the case, the Patriots would be starting rookie tackles and hoping to slow down the Dolphins’ pass rush while also providing a seal off the edge for outside runs.
Speaking of outside runs, that too could be a little more difficult thanks to nother new addition to the Patriots’ injury report.
Damien Harris is Back on the Injury Report
One of the most consistent performers on offense all season has been Damien Harris. The second-year running back has proved himself to be a tough north-south runner with decent hands out of the backfield.
Unfortunately, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Harris was limited during practice on Thursday because of an injured ankle.
If he cannot go, that would make the Patriots something they haven’t been for most of the season, and that’s a little thinner at the running back position than normal. When healthy, the Patriots have arguably the best group of running backs in the NFL.
You’ll get a strong argument from Cleveland Browns fans who might just see Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this year. However, a healthy Patriots running back group has Harris, Sony Michel (the likely starter if the former is out) James White, Rex Burkhead, and rookie JJ Taylor.
Unfortunately, Burkhead is lost for the season with a torn ACL, and Taylor has barely played since early in the season. If Harris cannot go, I’d expect the Patriots to potentially activate Taylor. He’s been inactive the last few weeks.
Patriots Catch a Break
New England got a favor from the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.
Led by an excellent performance from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers upset the Las Vegas Raiders 30-27 in overtime. The loss sent the Raiders to 7-7 on the season. That’s what the Patriots will improve to if they can defeat the Dolphins on Sunday.
Because the Patriots own the tiebreaker advantage over the Raiders, thanks to a Week 3 win over Jon Gruden and co., this would be a solid step toward New England keeping their playoff hopes alive. There is still a lot of time left and the Patriots must win out, but that loss by the Raiders was something New England needed to keep dreaming.
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