Why Hasn’t Duke Dawson Played Since Return From IR? Bill Belichick Briefly Explains

FOXBORO, Mass. — More than three weeks after returning from injured reserve, Duke Dawson still is waiting to make his New England Patriots debut.

The rookie cornerback has been a healthy scratch for each of the Patriots’ last two games, sitting out wins over the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be active for this Sunday’s road matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday why Dawson, a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has yet to see the field.

“We’re trying to win games,” Belichick said flatly. “Other than that, nothing.”

Asked how Dawson is progressing, Belichick replied: “He’s doing well.”

Since Dawson primarily plays in the slot, it was not surprising to see him inactive against Minnesota. The Vikings’ best receiver, Adam Thielen, often lines up inside, and New England chose to counter that by shifting starting corner Jason McCourty into the slot and using rookie J.C. Jackson in McCourty’s usual boundary spot.

Jonathan Jones, who’s been the team’s top slot corner for most of the season, played just two defensive snaps in the game, with both coming on the Vikings’ final possession.

Despite his inactivity, the Patriots seem pleased with the way Dawson, who hardly played during the preseason and was placed on IR with a hamstring injury before the regular-season opener, has performed since his return to the 53-man roster. The Florida product was recognized Wednesday as one of the team’s practice players of the week for Week 13.

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle the slot cornerback spot as the postseason approaches. McCourty, Jackson and Stephon Gilmore all had excellent games against Minnesota, with Jackson making a strong case to remain as the team’s No. 3 corner moving forward.

If that is the case, McCourty would play on the outside in base defense and shift to the slot when Jackson is on the field — similar to the role Logan Ryan played during his time in New England.

Whoever mans the slot for the Patriots this weekend likely will see a lot of former Patriots wideout Danny Amendola, who signed with the Dolphins this past offseason. Amendola missed Miami’s last game with an ankle injury, however, and his status for Sunday remains unclear.

Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com

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