While the return of the NFL preseason is always a welcome occurrence for football fans, it can be a dangerous time for players. Injuries occur at a higher rate, likely due to players still getting into peak playing condition. Every year there seems to be a plague of ACL tears throughout the league during July and August, ending players’ seasons before they even begin.
New England has luckily been spared that fate this preseason, which is a welcome notion for Patriots fans after having to watch Julian Edelman’s season end in the third preseason game last August. However, they are not without their nicks and bruises, and like most teams, they have some players who have been on and off the injury report throughout the preseason. The status of these players is something to keep an eye on as the Patriots welcome the Texans to Foxboro on Sunday.
Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel are two notable names for the Patriots offense that have spent their preseason on the injury report. Burkhead was nursing a knee injury, and Michel has been recovering from a minor knee procedure that he underwent after he tweaked it early on in camp. Burkhead has been an active participant in practice for the past few weeks, and this past week was officially taken off of the injury report. Michel, on the other hand, has only been a limited participant in practice. It is highly unlikely that the Patriots first round pick will see the field against the Texans; it is only the first game of the season, and the New England staff will not want to risk injuring Michel further. Burkhead will likely play, but only in a limited capacity. He did not participate in any preseason games, and so he will still need to get up to game speed. New England’s offense will likely feature a healthy blend of Jeremy Hill and James White.
Jacob Hollister is another player on the injury report worth paying attention to. The second-year tight end is listed with a hamstring injury and has been limited in practice. Hollister has made great strides this preseason and has seemed to develop a good working relationship with Tom Brady. With the Patriots wide receiver unit extremely thin, the team is going to need its running backs and tight ends, and Hollister’s absence could make life much more difficult for Brady against a top-tier Houston defense.
Right tackle Marcus Cannon is also someone to pay attention to come Sunday. He spent nearly half of last season on injured reserve with a foot injury and has spent most of the preseason sidelined with a strained calf muscle. The Patriots are thin at right tackle without him, as LaAdrian Waddle has been just adequate playing the position thus far in the preseason. The Texans have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL behind Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt. A healthy Cannon will be crucial in keeping Tom Brady upright.
The Patriots defense is in a little better shape than their offense. They have only two injuries, with Duke Dawson nursing a hamstring injury and Trey Flowers coming back from a head injury he suffered earlier in the preseason. Flowers did not play in the preseason but is almost guaranteed to play on Sunday. His presence on the field will be crucial against an impressively mobile quarterback like Deshaun Watson. Dawson is more of a question mark. He has been limited in practice and missed the last few preseason games. It will be unlikely that he sees the field, especially considering the rest of the depth that the Patriots have at defensive back. While it would be more comforting having a second-round cornerback on the field instead of a seventh-round pick and an undrafted free agent, Dawson’s long-term health is more important.
The Patriots still have decent health as a team and are in a good position heading into their season opener. The playing time that each of these players gets will help indicate their health for week two and beyond.
Until next time – B$