By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots are going to be without a major piece of their running game for at least a couple of months. The team announced Monday that they have placed fullback James Develin on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least eight weeks.
With Develin going to IR, that means that the Pats will have to choose two players between him, wide receiver N’Keal Harry, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn to bring back later in the season. According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, Develin’s injury is not believed to be season-ending. So it’s possible that all three will be healthy upon the first chance to come off IR.
Bill Belichick promoted rookie FB Jakob Johnson to the main roster off the practice squad to replace Develin last week against the Jets. But Johnson played zero offensive snaps besides Tom Brady’s two kneeldowns at the end of regulation. He did play six special teams snaps.
Develin’s injury opens a major opportunity for Johnson, whom head coach Bill Belichick admitted has come a long way from the very bottom of the roster to a possible starting fullback spot.
“I would say [Johnson] definitely started out as the 91st person on the roster and had a long, long, long way to go,” said Belichick during his Monday conference call. “Back in the spring, I don’t think anybody ever envisioned him being on the roster at that point, or even being on the practice squad, to tell you the truth. But he continued to get better, and certainly his physicality and his toughness showed up in the preseason games and in the preseason practices against Detroit and Tennessee.
“What he’s done has been remarkable. And in a relatively short period of time, but he works extremely hard. He’s one of the first players here every morning, he studies his note cards. You see him sitting in the dining room just studying note cards, just going over his plays. He puts literally every ounce of energy he has into this job and our team, and he’s totally earned everybody’s respect. And for that, you know, he’s a young player, he’s got a long way to go, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but he works very hard at it.”
If Josh McDaniels wants to re-establish the Patriots’ power running game that they used with Develin, he will have to get Johnson involved. Otherwise, the team will have to reinvent their running game in order to ignite what’s been an inert unit to start the season. Through three games, the Patriots entered Monday 28th in the NFL with just 3.2 yards per rush.
Teammate Matthew Slater spoke Monday on what Develin means to him and the team.
“Never had a better teammate in 12 years of football,” Slater said. “He’s the best teammate I’ve ever been around, bar none. He’s a tremendous human being, but he’s always been about putting this team first. He’s always been about sacrificing for the greater good. You talk about everything that this organization hopes to stand for – nobody embodies it better than James.”
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.