By Danny Cox
Even though the New England Patriots have shaken off some of the early-season rust, they can’t get around the injuries that are beginning to pile up. No team in the NFL is ever able to avoid the uncertainty of injuries; they can absolutely decimate a roster and cause a winning season to go to a losing one in almost no time at all.
Three Patriots miss practice and are in danger of missing Sunday night’s game
Despite having the bye week to heal up, the Patriots still had three key players missing from practice in the last two days and it could bring about their absence against the Broncos. Malcolm Brown (ankle), Marcus Cannon (ankle), and Chris Hogan (shoulder) are all starters and may all be on the sideline for Sunday night’s game.
Hogan’s injury happened late in the Patriots’ victory over the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks ago, and that will likely cause Phillip Dorsett to see more time. No matter what, any team missing a player who has played on 90.2 percent of the offensive snaps in the first half of the season will find him hard to replace.
LaAdrian Waddle entered the game against the Chargers for Cannon, and will likely start against the Broncos with Cameron Fleming as his back-up.
Brown will be missed on defense, but New England does have a number of players who can step in to fill his spot. Alan Branch and Lawrence Guy are possibilities to play a good deal against the Broncos, but the Pats also looked outside of their current roster.
Injuries cause New England to bring in a new defensive lineman
On Tuesday, the Patriots signed veteran free agent defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who played a little for Green Bay earlier this season before being released. Francois has had a lengthy career spanning several teams as he’s spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, and Washington Redskins.
Francois has had some rather successful seasons during his career, with 2014 being his best. During that year with the Colts, Francois had 28 total tackles and three sacks, and he’s always been a consistent defender no matter who he is playing for.
While the Patriots do have a number of players that could step in during injuries, head coach Bill Belichick gave a simple explanation as to why the team signed the veteran.
“I just feel like we were trying to add a little depth to the defensive line,” said Belichick. “He’s played this year, has some experience.”
Belichick likes the fact that Francois has been in different defensive schemes and knows how to adjust to different systems.
“He’s been on several different teams, played in different systems,” the coach continued. “Played 3-4 end, played inside on the guard. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Ricky Jean Francois’ new status as a New England Patriot is good for his career—and it could end up being a good fit for the team— but only time will tell. If he gets some playing time against the Broncos and is productive, he could secure a roster spot for the rest of the season.