Just making some blatant injury excuses for the banged-up Patriots
November 3rd, 2022
Lost amid the roller coaster ride that has been the Patriots’ quarterback situation, is that they’ve been gutted by injuries to major pieces of the roster.
Of course, the big-picture takeaway from the Patriots’ struggle to replace key production is that they don’t have a quarterback who can mask those problems. Not yet, anyway. Mac Jones could get there. But this has most certainly been an unfortunate time for the Pats to play without the likes of center David Andrews, defensive tackle Christian Barmore, or safety Kyle Dugger, let alone all three at the same time.
Quarterbacks aside, it’s not plainly obvious just how big those losses have been, because of the positions those guys play. But with the roster as currently constructed, they can’t afford to lose them for extended time. And it’s fair to wonder how things might have gone at full health.
Here’s a look at the Patriots’ key injuries in recent weeks, and how it’s affected them.
Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots center David Andrews (60) pass blocks at the line of scrimmage for quarterback Mac Jones (10) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots have often had major problems with pass protection, even with David Andrews in the lineup. Without him, those issues were amplified against the New York Jets’ explosive pass-rush.
Pro Football Focus charted the Jets for 16 total pressures last Sunday, two of which were attributed to fill-in starting center James Ferentz. Jones faced pressure on 40.9 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Reference. That was WAY up from even Week 7 against the Bears (22.9 percent), when Andrews played 85 percent of the offensive snaps prior to his injury.
Andrews missed Wednesday’s practice, as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered after taking a cheap shot from the Bears’ Mike Pennel. He wasn’t spotted during media availability on Thursday, either. It could be another week of Ferentz manning the controls, with another big test against the Colts’ defensive front. In the meantime, Andrews is helping out more like a coach.
“He’s offering every piece of advice he can, being supportive in the role,” Ferentz said of Andrews in a Zoom conference Monday. “When you’re on the sidelines, it’s a very difficult one, especially Dave, who’s a core leader of this team. I’m not sure there’s anything really more important in his life, outside of [his wife and son] Mackenzie and Ford, than this football team.
“He had some words of encouragement Sunday morning heading into it. I know he couldn’t be there, but he’s doing everything he can to get there and obviously he can only control so much.”
Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
One of the Patriots’ biggest problems against the Bears, on a night packed with them, was the lack of an interior pass-rush. In the absence of Barmore, six Patriots defensive tackles combined for just four total pressures (via PFF). The lack of heat on Justin Fields was a major factor in the Bears converting 11-of-18 third downs.
The defensive line showed improvement in this department against the Jets, primarily thanks to Ekuale generating three total pressures on his own in an increased pass-rush role. But there’s no question that the defense has missed Barmore up the middle, if only for the attention he draws.
Barmore was present at Patriots practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and listed as a limited participant in the first injury report of the week. So he could be trending toward a return on Sunday against the Colts. That would be most welcome.
Kyle Dugger’s 59-yard scoop and score gave the Patriots’ defense their second touchdown in as many weeks. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
Dugger is allowing a career-low 57.1 completion percentage and 41.4 passer rating in coverage in six games so far in 2022, as the Patriots’ primary man coverage safety. He played a major role in the Pats holding Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson to just one catch in Week 5.
Without Dugger on the field, it’s been a different story. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews lit them up for two touchdowns in Week 3, then the Jets’ Tyler Conklin caught a touchdown of his own last Sunday. Beyond tight end coverage, Dugger is the team’s most versatile defensive player and a key piece of the whole operation.
Like Barmore, Dugger has been limited in practice but appears to have a chance to return. His closing speed and tackling ability would be incredibly useful against the Colts offense, including mobile quarterback Sam Ehlinger. If he’s out again, the hope is the Pats don’t let Colts tight end Mo-Allie Cox be the one to beat them.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.