It’s no longer obvious which players the New England Patriots will activate off of injured reserve.
The Patriots placed fullback James Develin on the IR list Monday with a neck injury. Develin’s injury is not considered season-ending, a source told NESN.com. He can be activated as early as Week 12.
But the Patriots also have left tackle Isaiah Wynn and wide receiver N’Keal Harry on the IR list. Harry can be activated as early as Week 9, while Wynn can come off of IR as early as Week 11. The Patriots can only activate two players off of IR, per NFL rules.
Wynn, who started the season at left tackle, seems to be an obvious choice. He was the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and was off to a hot start to the 2019 season before suffering a toe injury. Marshall Newhouse filled in well Sunday in the Patriots’ 30-14 win over the New York Jets, but Wynn seemingly would be a significant boost.
So, the second decision comes down to Harry vs. Develin, and it probably will depend on midseason depth.
The Patriots currently have Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski on their wide receiver depth chart after releasing Antonio Brown last week. Cameron Meredith, who has regularly been at Gillette Stadium attending meetings with teammates, is eligible to return off of the physically unable to perform list in Week 7. After Week 6, the Patriots have a six-week window for Meredith to begin practicing. Once he starts practicing, the Patriots would then have a 21-day window to activate him. So, the latest the Patriots could activate Meredith would be in Week 15.
Meredith has a 66-catch, 888-yard, four-touchdown season under his belt, but it came in 2016 before two knee injuries.
If the Patriots have a wide receiver depth chart of Edelman, Gordon, Dorsett, Meyers, Meredith and Olszewski, then it might not be necessary to activate Harry, even though he was the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Edelman currently is dealing with a chest injury, and Gordon is always a bit of an uncertainty. So in the end, Harry could wind up being necessary.
The Patriots like to run the ball when it gets cold, and it helps to have a bruising fullback like Develin. The Patriots signed backup fullback Jakob Johnson to their active roster Saturday, but they didn’t use him on offense Sunday until they knelt the ball in the final seconds.
Johnson essentially has an eight-week audition to see if he can replace Develin. The Patriots’ running game has sputtered a bit to start the season. Starting running back Sony Michel only carried the ball nine times for 11 yards Sunday. Rex Burkhead was more effective, carrying the ball 11 times for 47 yards. He could take on a greater role with Develin out.
The Patriots’ roster is still stacked, but injuries are beginning to pile up. They’ll have to finish the season without one of Wynn, Harry or Develin. That hurts.