Patriots rookie ‘anticipated’ to see bigger role with wide receiver injuries
Two members of the New England Patriots’ 2023 rookie class won’t play in Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. However, their absences could open up a spot on the field for another first-year player.
On Friday’s injury report, the Patriots ruled out rookie wide receivers Demario Douglas (concussion) and Kayshon Boutte (shoulder/illness) for this Sunday. They are the only two players ruled out for the game.
With those two out, the Patriots are down to just four healthy wide receivers on their active roster – DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, and Jalen Reagor. It would make sense for the Patriots to add another receiver from the practice squad.
It sounds like the Patriots will do just that. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, “it’s anticipated” that rookie UDFA Malik Cunningham – who has played both quarterback and wide receiver – will be added to the active roster for this game.
Cunningham could end up playing two roles for the Patriots on Sunday. In addition to needing more wide receiver depth, it’s also unclear who the Patriots’ backup quarterback will be if Bailey Zappe gets the start (which is reportedly the plan). The Patriots’ options would be to have Mac Jones still dress as the backup, make Will Grier their other practice squad elevation, or have Cunningham play both roles.
The Patriots have had Cunningham do that before. In Week 6 against the Raiders, Jones and Cunningham were the only two quarterbacks to dress for the game, and Cunningham played four snaps at receiver while logging two more as a quarterback (both of those plays were designed quarterback runs). That was the only game Cunningham has dressed for this year. It’s been reported this week that Cunningham had practiced almost exclusively at wide receiver since then, but did get some more quarterback reps this week.
In addition to ruling the two wide receivers out on Friday, the Patriots also listed six players as questionable. That group includes running back Ezekiel Elliott (thigh), offensive linemen Trent Brown (ankle/chest), Sidy Sow (ankle), and Riley Reiff (knee), defensive lineman Deatrich Wise (shoulder), and linebacker Chris Board (back).
The Patriots also removed three players – all captains – from the injury report. Center David Andrews (foot), linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (hamstring), and special teamer Matthew Slater (ankle) are all now fully healthy.
In LA, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (quad) returned to practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. Allen didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.