Patriots’ Pass-Rush Injury Concerns Might Have Been Slightly Overblown

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots practiced Wednesday for the first time since they got battered and bruised in their 35-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, and they received some good news on defense.

It seems the injuries suffered to key members of their front seven weren’t nearly as bad as some dreaded. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy (leg), Marquis Flowers (leg) and Trevor Reilly (head) and defensive end Trey Flowers (ribs) all left Sunday’s game with injuries. Van Noy and both Flowers’ were present for practice. Reilly didn’t participate in warmups, but he was headed to the practice field as the media was leaving.

Based on practice availability, it seems the injuries to Van Noy and both Flowers’ are minor at the very least. Since they practiced Wednesday, it seems more likely than not that all three players will be suiting up Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

That means the Patriots should be able to actually form a third-and-long pass rush against the Bills. Van Noy has emerged in Rob Ninkovich’s old role as a hybrid edge defender who stands up at outside linebacker but primarily rushes in passing situations, where he has 5.5 sacks on the season. Trey Flowers is the Patriots’ top defensive end and leads the team with six sacks. Reilly is another hybrid edge player who can rush the passer or drop back into coverage.

Without those three players, the Patriots would have been left with rookies Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler and first-year player Eric Lee as their lone pass rushers. The Patriots typically use four traditional pass rushers in obvious passing situations. Having three inexperienced players rushing the quarterback could have been a problem against the Bills, since edge defenders have to stay disciplined against mobile passer Tyrod Taylor.

Since the Patriots have depth in their secondary, at defensive tackle and middle linebacker, it could be argued that Trey Flowers and Van Noy are their most irreplaceable defensive players. Things appear to be trending in the right direction for them to be back on the field Sunday in the Patriots’ third AFC East matchup of the season.

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