Last season saw the New England Patriots rocket up the standings before a Wild Card exit leaves several questions heading into the 2022 season. As Bill Belichick gets older, time dwindles on his time left with the team, hoping to stay competitive for one last deep playoff run.
How the team is constructed may prevent that goal, but the Patriots will never go away quietly under this regime. This team has the ability to overachieve but must stay healthy in order to reach their ceiling.
Depth will be crucial for a Patriots squad looking to build off their playoff loss one year ago.
2021 Notable Injuries
RB Damien Harris (Concussion/Hamstring) Harris missed only one game due to a concussion sustained in Week 9 and also missed one game due to a hamstring strain in Week 13. He battled rib and neck injuries that gave him a questionable designation on the injury report.
The Patriots look to continue to deploy a running back by committee approach as evident by Harris’ 42 percent snap count from last season. With a reduced load, Harris lessens his risk for re-injury, though it isn’t totally eliminated. Concussions are random in nature and hamstring strains are the most common soft tissue injury in football with a recurrence rate of 33 percent.
He appears to be the lead back heading into 2022, but the running game could take a step back if Harris gets banged up again.
RB James White (Right Subluxed Hip) White suffered a subluxed right hip in Week 3, ultimately requiring surgery and going to injured reserve. This type of injury is relatively rare and the result of landing on a flexed and adducted him, breaking the lip of the acetabulum, the socket with which the femoral head articulates.
White has been told that re-injury to the area is quite low and research also supports the ability to return to the same level of play. However, it is important to note that this is a small sample size. With the recent draft selection of RB Pierre Strong, White has a tough road ahead of him to make the roster. Recent reports indicate that he has been walking with notable limp for several weeks prior to training camp. This is despite the Patriots giving him a new two-year deal.
He has started on PUP to begin the season and it remains to be seen if White can return to form due to the nature of the injury and his age.
C David Andrews (Right Labrum Tear) Andrews, a frequent name on the injury report during the regular season, underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder. He likely subluxed or dislocated the shoulder at some point, but able to play through. It’s not clear when he suffered the injury, but he first showed up on the report following the Week 13 matchup against Buffalo.
Despite the injury, Andrews still managed to play in 99 percent of the season snaps. Labrum repairs take anywhere from six-to-nine months for a full recovery when there is no additional damage. He was placed on PUP to start the season but was removed shortly into camp.
Unfortunately, labrum tears are quite common for linemen and have a recurrence rate anywhere from 13-26 percent. Due to the nature of the position, getting the arms up to block defensive lineman with the resulting force being placed through the shoulders, is unfortunately a risk that can’t be reduced.
OT Trent Brown (Calf Strain) Brown missed a total of eight games due to a significant calf strain suffered in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. He spent half of the season on IR as he rehabbed, but even upon returning, he still lingered on the injury report for another month.
Once he returned, he played in over 90 percent of the offensive snaps with the exception of his first game back, still logging 69 percent. Moving to left tackle may be a brief adjustment, but he has extensive experience in the past which may allow him more positional awareness, potentially leading to decreased injury.
He is not immune from aggravation to the calf, but considering he took as much time off as he did after the injury, my concern is much less than if he had played through the issue.
TE Dalton Keene (Meniscus surgery) Keene spent all of 2021 on injured reserve due to a knee surgery that was reported as very similar to his meniscus surgery in college.
It’s not known if this was the same knee or merely a similar procedure for the other knee. The procedure in college was said to be a cleanup.
By this point, he should have a full recovery and not be limited in any fashion. However, reports back in early June reported he was still limited in his reps during minicamp.
His main concern appears to be whether he can finally produce at an NFL level, having only 3 receptions for 16 yards. But three knee surgeries in three years dating back to college doesn’t help his chances.
DE Henry Anderson (Pectoral Tear) Anderson suffered a pectoral tear in Week 4, ending his season. Reports don’t specify which side was injured but re-injuries to this area are rare, reducing any concerns for Anderson heading into 2022.
DT Christian Barmore (Knee) Barmore worked through a nagging knee injury during the latter part of the season, not missing any games. His snaps did tail off at the end of the season around the same time as the injury, but this is not expected to be an injury that carries over to the 2022 season.
LB Ju’Whaun Bentley (Ribs) Bentley worked through a rib injury during most of the season, though it is unclear if he broke them. Based on the time spent on the injury report, it’s very likely that he had several fractures.
This is not an injury that will carry over, but as seen below, this was one of many injuries to the linebacker corps that affected their depth.
LB Jamie Collins (Ankle) Collins missed 4 games including a trip to IR due to an ankle injury suffered in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers.
LB D’onta Hightower (Elbow/Ankle) Hightower missed one game to an elbow injury in Week 6, appearing on the injury report for the next five weeks as he worked through the injury.
He later dealt with an ankle injury that forced him out of the Week 17 contest after suffering the injury two weeks prior. Regrettably, he was largely ineffective during the second half of the season.
LB Anfernee Jennings (Undisclosed) Jennings spent all of 2021 on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
LB Raekwon McMillen (Torn ACL) McMillen suffered torn ACL in training camp and missed all of the 2021 season. He entered the 2022 season on the PUP list indicating that the damage was more severe than initially reported.
LB Harvey Langi (MCL Sprain) Langi suffered an MCL sprain in Week 7, going to IR, but regrettably missed the rest of the season, totaling 10 games.
LB Josh Uche (Back/ankle injuries) Uche missed 1 game due to a back injury and was later sent to IR with an ankle injury following Week 10, missing 4 games.
CB Jonathan Jones (Shoulder Surgery) Jones missed 11 games due to a season-ending shoulder injury against Dallas, though it was not clear what the procedure was that he required.
S Kyle Duggar (Hamstring, Knee, Neck, Hand injuries) Duggar was beaten up most of the year with the above-mentioned injuries, though only missing one game due to the hand, which was later reported to be broken. He ended up playing with a cast on, but it significantly hampered his ability to defend both the pass and run.
S Joshuah Bledsoe (Calf Strain) Bledsoe suffered a calf injury in Week 15, eventually going to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.l
K Nick Folk (Left Knee) Folk was on the injury report for most of the season with a left knee injury, though did not miss any games. It’s important to note the left side is his plant side when kicking. I believe that he worked through patellar tendonitis, but it did not affect him as he went 36/39 on FG’s and 42/47 on XP’s.
2022 Draft Picks
OL Cole Strange– Outside of a broken wrist in 2016, no injury concerns for the surprising first-round pick.
WR Tyquan Thornton– No notable injuries coming out of Baylor, did have to leave a game in 2020 due to an undisclosed injury, but was quite healthy and available during his time in Waco.
CB Marcus Jones– Had his share of injuries during his time at Troy and Houston including hamstring and other minor injuries, missing two games in 2018 due to a broken collarbone. He later required surgery on both of his shoulder labrums that according to PatsPulpit, had been plaguing him since 2018. This explains why he was in a red non-contact jersey during the offseason.
CB Jack Jones– Notably minor issues including a pair of ankle injuries and other minor lower leg injuries, no significant missed time.
RB Pierre Strong– The biggest injury that Strong suffered was a hairline collarbone fracture that forced the premature end of his high school career. Other than an ankle and knee injury that caused minimally missed time, Strong has minimal concerns.
QB Bailey Zappe– No notable injury concerns.
RB Kevin Harris– Most notably, had back surgery to remove a cyst on a spinal nerve in college in the offseason prior to the 2021 season. Also suffered a groin tear during his freshman year in 2019. Also had hamstring and ankle injuries with are unfortunately common; the hamstring strain did force him to miss the running portions of the NFL Combine.
DT Sam Roberts– A groin injury along with an undisclosed injury were the only notable injuries for the Division II product.
C Chasen Hines– A pair of knee injuries including surgery to his right knee prior to his sophomore year limited him early on in his career. Also highlighted is a lower leg injury that cost him three games in 2021. Started 2022 on the NFI list.
OT Andrew Steuber– Torn ACL in practice during the 2019 season, but was able to return in 2020. Started 2022 on the NFI list.
S Jabrill Peppers– Oft-injured player with frequent injuries dating back to college. Ended his tenure with the New York Giants with a right ACL tear and high-ankle sprain on the same play in Week 7. Started the season on the PUP list.
CB Malcolm Butler– Didn’t play in 2021 after initially retiring as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Has been rather durable other than a broken wrist in 2019 that cost him seven games.
RB Ty Montgomery– Dealt with a multitude of smaller issues throughout his career. Has had a broken ankle along with rib, wrist, and hamstring injuries dating back to college.
CB Terrance Mitchell– The journeyman defensive back had dealt with a concussion, broken wrist, and hamstring injury throughout his career.
The biggest concern I see with the New England Patriots is keeping their starters healthy. While some of the injuries noted earlier in the article are simply regurgitations of the injury report, the number of players that dealt with injuries in each position is concerning. The defense alone with five players working through injuries while two more missed the season is troublesome.
It’s worth highlighting that New England not only overexaggerates the injury report every week, but specifics on the injuries are vague at best, leading to detailed sources.
The secondary also saw its share of injuries that forced guys to play through smaller issues, limiting their effectiveness. Their offensive injuries were much less severe in comparison, but it’s remarkable that they were able to put together a seven-game winning streak in the middle of the season.
If the defense can stay healthy along with some of their key playmakers on offense, then another playoff appearance isn’t out of the question. Effective depth will be necessary in order to make this happen. A Bill Belichick-coached team can probably squeeze an extra win or two out of a team, but the players still have to execute the game plan.
This is a 10 to 12-win team based on the leadership at the top. They will be competing with the Miami Dolphins for second place in the AFC East, which may be good enough for a playoff spot in most years.
The Patriots will not be going away without a fight as long as Bill Belichick is in charge and with a healthier team than last season, they will steal some wins from teams from week to week.
Top Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty