Just one week into the 2018 regular season, the Patriots endured a significant season-ending injury. In his first regular season game with New England, Jeremy Hill suffered a torn ACL, and will consequently miss the rest of this year. Early in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Texans, Rob Gronkowski fumbled the football at midfield. Tyrann Mathieu recovered the fumble, and in his attempt to tackle Mathieu, James Develin hit Hill’s knee and caused the injury.
This injury is not catastrophic for the Patriots; however, it is significant considering how easily Hill seemed to fit into New England’s offense. He easily beat out Mike Gillislee in the preseason to make the team, and looked impressive in his first half of regular season football, tallying four carries for 25 yards as well as a blocked punt. He seemed poised to make a serious contribution to the New England offense.
The Patriots heavy depth at running back helps buffer the impact of Hill’s injury. However, there are certainly still question marks. New England’s main backs are now James White and Rex Burkhead, two extremely capable three-down backs who are adept at running, receiving, and blocking. Neither necessarily fit the role of a “power back”, but having a fullback as talented as James Develin helps seriously reduce the need of a prototypical power back. He can create holes that even shifty backs will be able to maneuver in.
Issues will begin to arise if Rex Burkhead is sidelined again with an injury. He missed six regular season games in 2017 due to a string of injuries and did not participate in most of the preseason with a knee issue. It would be a little bit of a stretch to diagnose him as “injury prone”, as he did play two full seasons with the Bengals before getting hurt last year in his first season with the Patriots. However, he hasn’t ever seemed to be perfectly healthy during his time in New England, and although he was cleared to play on Sunday, it is still possible that his preseason knee injury is lingering. If Burkhead is sidelined, the running back duties would fall solely on the shoulders of James White.
The other thing to consider with Hill’s injury is how it affects the status of Sony Michel. The Patriots first round pick was sidelined for most of the preseason after having a minor knee procedure. He has been back at practice over the past couple weeks but was not dressed for Sunday’s game. The Patriots were likely going to be more cautious with Michel, giving him time to come back healthy so that his knee does not become a long-term injury. However, with Hill going down, the team may feel the need to bring Michel back sooner than they would like. This could mean that Patriots fans will get to see the rookie in action within the next few weeks.
Until next time – B$