The New England Patriots were dealt a tough blow to their defensive roster on Saturday. Promising 25-year-old inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan suffered a torn ACL, and he is expected to miss the entire 2021 season, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. McMillan will be placed on injured reserve.
The injury apparently happened while McMillan was working in punt coverage. Unfortunately, this is the second time McMillan has been down this road.
He also suffered a torn ACL in his rookie season, but it was in the other knee.
Raekwon McMillan Had Been Making a Strong Impression on Bill Belichick
The Patriots signed McMillan to a one-year, $1.15 million deal in March. Because of all of the talent the Patriots signed during the offseason, it was clear McMillan would need to stand out if he was going to make the team. He’d been doing that through OTAs and training camp before the injury shut him down.
Per Reiss, who also used a quote from Bill Belichick, McMillan had already grabbed his head coach’s attention.
This past Monday, McMillan was a top performer at practice, with two pass breakups. Belichick had also praised him, saying, “I’ve been very impressed with his intelligence, his work ethic. He’s locked in every day.”
Now he’s facing another rehab and potentially uphill climb to make a roster next season.
The Patriots Signed Cassh Maluia to Fill McMillan’s Spot
McMillan’s injury opened up a spot for another linebacker.
New England re-signed Cassh Maluia, whom the team drafted in 2020. Maluia spent time on the Patriots’ practice squad and was even active for a few games before being released earlier this year.
Maluia’s athleticism and aggressiveness would seemingly make him a strong fit as a special teams contributor, but he does not have the same potential as McMillan.
Still, it is good to see him get another opportunity to stick on an NFL roster. Even with McMillan out for the season, the Patriots look to be in a good place from a depth standpoint at linebacker.
As of now, per Patriots cap expert Miguel Benzan, here is a look at the team’s current linebacker group:
- Dont’a Hightower
- Matthew Judon
- Kyle Van Noy
- Josh Uche
- Raekwon McMillan (IR)
- Harvey Langi
- Anfernee Jennings
- Ja’whaun Bentley
- Terez Hall (PUP)
- Ronnie Perkins
- Cameron McGrone (NFI)
- Cassh Maluia
The players from that list who are likely to play the most meaningful snaps in 2021 are Hightower, Judon, Van Noy and Uche. The Patriots would love to see players like Bentley and Jennings turn the corner. That’s especially the case with Bentley whose playing time was most likely at jeopardy had McMillan continued his surge.
Also, Benzan’s list counts Perkins as a linebacker, but it remains to be seen if he will play more on the line.
Also, the list doesn’t include Chase Winovich, who has yet to participate in training camp. He is an edge defender, so McMillan’s absence shouldn’t impact his bottom line.
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