The New England Patriots were hit hard by injuries last week in their road victory. Which players will be good to go against the Dallas Cowboys?
It’s always astounding just how quickly the complexion of an NFL team can change due to injuries.
Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots were about as healthy as they’d been since the beginning of the regular season. That’s the benefit of having a full week off from game action during a bye, especially when that bye occurs in the middle or later stages of the season.
Fast-forward to only five days after the Patriots’ comeback road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, and New England suddenly has a frighteningly-long list of names on the official injury report they released via their team website on Friday. In all, 12 different players had their names added to the final injury report before the team’s game this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Of those 12 players, half are on offense and half are on defense.
Starting with the offense and with the biggest name on the list, quarterback Tom Brady was added to the injury report Friday for the first time this week with a right elbow injury. While Brady is surely a lock to play this weekend against the Cowboys, it’s still never a good sign when your starting quarterback turns up as a late addition to the injury report.
Right tackle Marcus Cannon was another new name on the week’s injury report. Cannon was limited in Friday’s practice because of illness; he’d previously turned up on the report this season with an ankle injury.
Hopefully Cannon is drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes and getting the rest he need, as he’s an integral part of the offensive line. His absence against a talented Cowboys pass rush – led by main tackler Jaylon Smith and former Patriot Michael Bennett – would certainly be a cause for concern if you’re a New England fan.
The good news for Patriots fans is that Mohamed Sanu, who missed practice altogether on both Wednesday and Thursday, returned to get in a limited session on Friday. Sanu is reportedly dealing with a high ankle sprain he suffered while making a punt return against the Eagles last week. Some reporters have claimed he could be out for several weeks, while others are optimistic that he could play through the pain this week and suit up for the Cowboys.
Fellow wide receiver Phillip Dorsett missed Wednesday’s practice but returned to get limited work in on both Thursday and Friday. Dorsett scored the Patriots’ only touchdown in their 17-10 victory over the Eagles on a Julian Edelman double pass before promptly leaving the game to get evaluated for a concussion. Assuming he clears the league’s protocol, Dorsett should be able to return to the lineup this weekend against the Cowboys.
Edelman himself is another offensive player on the injury report. Brady’s No. 1 receiver has been on the report more or less all season – usually with a chest injury – though he appears on Friday’s report with a shoulder injury instead. Outside of a brief period of the game against the New York Jets in Week 3 when he first sustained the chest injury, Edelman has not missed any time this year in regular season games; he should be out there on the field this Sunday, barring something catastrophic.
The final offensive player on the report is Damien Harris. Harris is a rookie running back who has yet to see much action in the regular season this year, and he appears once again on the injury report with a bad hamstring. It wouldn’t be a surprise to also see Harris on the Patriots’ list of inactives this week, where he’s been somewhat of a regular since September, given the team’s depth at the position with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden.
Defensively, the biggest name on the list is arguably safety Patrick Chung, who continues to appear on the report with dual injuries to his chest and heel. Chung missed last week’s game against the Eagles, and while fellow safeties Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, and Terrence Brooks did a good job of shutting down Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert for most of the game in Chung’s absence, it would still be nice to see Chung return to action sooner rather than later.
Fellow New England defensive back Jason McCourty is also on this week’s injury report with a groin problem. McCourty was limited in Friday’s practice after being a full participant earlier in the week; his status bears careful monitoring, as he no doubt is expected to cover Michael Gallup this weekend (one of Dallas’ fastest and most dangerous wide receivers).
Defensive end John Simon (elbow) is on the injury report, but he managed to play through the same predicament last week against the Eagles and finished the game with four tackles on the night.
Safety/special-teamer Nate Ebner continues to find his name on the injury report with both an ankle and a back injury. Fellow special-teamer (and backup receiver) Matthew Slater is also on the injury report this week as a late Friday addition with a hamstring issue. If neither Ebner nor Slater can go, that puts more pressure on other core special teams players like Justin Bethel, Chase Winovich, and Terrence Brooks to come up big in that phase against Dallas.
Finally, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is on the report for the Pats with a knee injury. Bentley has been healthy for most of this year, but he was limited in practice all of this week. He’s an important backup behind starters Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower; Shilique Calhoun would probably take some of his snaps if Bentley is forced out of action against the Cowboys.
All 12 Patriots players are listed as “questionable;” none are listed as either “out” or “doubtful,” which makes it especially difficult to try and forecast who will play this weekend and who will not. The biggest injury concerns of all are Brady (always and forever) and his starting trio of receivers (Edelman, Dorsett, and Sanu), given New England’s struggles this year on offense.
For Dallas, the Cowboys have just four names listed on their final injury report of the week: three of them are “questionable,” and one of them is “out.”
The one player who is “out” this weekend already is one of the most important players on the Dallas roster, and that’s linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with a neck injury. Vander Esch is second on the Cowboys in team tackles behind running mate Jaylon Smith; his absence tremendously benefits the New England offense this weekend. Veteran Sean Lee is expected to play a more major role in Vander Esch’s place.
Joe Thomas, who is technically listed on Dallas’ depth chart as Vander Esch’s backup, is questionable to play against New England because of illness. Backup safety Donovan Wilson is also questionable to play with an illness of his own. Neither player is viewed as being critical to the Cowboys’ defensive plans on Sunday, though their absences would obviously affect rotational plans and snap counts.
Left guard Connor Williams would dramatically impact his team’s plans on Sunday if he was forced to sit out the game with his knee injury. Williams had minor surgery to correct the injury and seems to be trending in a positive direction to be able to play against the Patriots, but his status remains unclear.
The Cowboys previously listed right tackle La’el Collins (knee/back), right guard Zach Martin (back/ankle/elbow), defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (shoulder), safety Jeff Heath (shoulder), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (neck), and wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee) on the injury report for their team earlier this week, but all six players were removed from Friday’s final list.