The New England Patriots reportedly will play their first game of the post-Rob Gronkowski era with just one tight end on their 46-man gameday roster.
Matt LaCosse, who has not appeared in a game since leaving the Patriots’ preseason opener with an ankle injury, is not expected to play Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
With LaCosse out and Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks both currently serving suspensions, Ryan Izzo will be the Patriots’ only available tight end.
This will be the first regular-season NFL appearance for Izzo, who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. The 2018 seventh-round draft pick made a few standout receptions during the preseason — including an 18-yarder from Tom Brady against the Carolina Panthers — but is known more for his talents as a run blocker.
The Patriots also could be without big-bodied veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas, who’s listed as questionable with a hamstring injury that limited him in practice this week. Per Rapoport, the team has not ruled Thomas out but “will be cautious not to aggravate his hamstring further.”
Thomas caught seven passes on eight targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s preseason finale last Thursday. The 31-year-old missed all of training camp after tearing his Achilles last December.
If LaCosse and Thomas both cannot go, the Patriots’ group of available pass-catchers will look like this:
Receivers: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
Tight end: Ryan Izzo
Running backs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots bolstered their receiving corps Saturday by agreeing to terms with superstar Antonio Brown, but he has yet to officially sign and will not be eligible to play until Week 2 at the earliest.
Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images