The New England Patriots achieved remarkable success last season considering how many of the team’s most important players missed significant time because of injuries.
The defense, in particular, was hit very hard.
Former all-pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork missed the last 12 games of the regular season and the entire playoffs after suffering a torn Achilles. The loss of his leadership, experience and ability to stop the run hurt New England’s defense quite a bit.
Jerod Mayo, one of the most experienced and fundamentally sound players in the team’s linebacker corps, was lost for the season after just six games because of a pectoral injury. As someone who consistently ranks among the NFL leaders in tackles, Mayo’s absence hurt the Patriots run and pass defense.
The other notable defensive player who dealt with injuries last year was cornerback Aqib Talib. The veteran defensive back played at a high level when he was healthy, but he missed three regular-season games and the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos. He’s a free agent this offseason, but concerns over his durability could make re-signing him difficult.
Tom Brady’s offense was significantly hurt by Rob Gronkowski’s injuries this season. The star tight end missed the first six games of the season recovering from offseason surgeries, and then he suffered a torn ACL in a Week 14 game against the Cleveland Browns. Gronkowski’s size, strength and ability to come up clutch in the red zone makes him the most valuable player on the team’s offense aside from Brady, and New England wasn’t able to replace him all year.
Another important player who missed games was offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer. He suffered a broken leg in October and had surgery to repair it. He’s a tremendous pass blocker and someone Brady can trust.
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