The New England Patriots won’t be getting an injured offensive weapon back for the home stretch.
The shoulder injury running back Ty Montgomery suffered in Week 1 will sideline him for the remainder of the season, according to a report Wednesday from The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride.
A Montgomery return would have added depth and versatility to New England’s skill-position groups, as the 29-year-old can play both running back and wide receiver as well as return kicks. He began the season as the Patriots’ primary third-down back, replacing the retired James White in that role.
What does Wednesday’s news mean for the Patriots, who are preparing to host the New York Jets this Sunday at Gillette Stadium? It means you’ll continue to see a whole lot of Rhamondre Stevenson over the second half of the season.
Stevenson has greatly expanded his role in the passing game this year, assuming nearly all of White/Montgomery’s duties there in addition to his early-down timeshare with Damien Harris. He has 35 receptions through nine games, trailing only top wideout Jakobi Meyers (40) in that category. No other Patriots player has more than 19 catches. Stevenson also has more than twice as many rushing yards (618) as Harris (302), who’s missed two games due to injury or illness.
The 2021 fourth-round draft pick has been New England’s offensive MVP so far this season, earning frequent and effusive praise from head coach Bill Belichick. And Harris, when healthy, is a high-end 1B to Stevenson’s 1A, even if he’s on pace to fall well short of his 15-touchdown 2021 campaign.
The depth chart beyond those two, however, is bleak. Neither of the Patriots’ rookie backs (fourth-rounder Pierre Strong and sixth-rounder Kevin Harris) has looked ready for any sort of legitimate offensive role, combining for just 22 offensive snaps and four carries for 10 yards so far this season. This point was driven home by New England’s decision to promote third-year pro J.J. Taylor from the practice squad two weeks ago and play him over both Strong and Kevin Harris in its win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Taylor has a wealth of experience in the Patriots’ system and has flashed in the preseason, but he’s been a nonfactor in nearly all of his regular-season opportunities. In his season debut against the Colts, the 5-foot-6, 185-pound sparkplug averaged less than a yard per carry (10 rushes, 9 yards) and caught one pass for 8 yards.
Durability has not been a problem this season for Stevenson, who has yet to miss a game or practice or appear on the Patriots’ injury report. But he’s seen an unusually heavy workload for a New England running back, ranking eighth in the NFL in snap rate for his position through 10 weeks. He’s been on the field for 66.1% of his team’s offensive snaps, which would be by far the highest mark of any Patriots running back since at least 2012, when Pro-Football-Reference began recording snap counts.
Unlike some NFL teams, Patriots typically prefer to rotate their backs, and whenever Damien Harris is active, they’ll continue to do so. But permanently losing Montgomery — who made a non-padded appearance at Wednesday’s practice — removes another trusted option from that rotation and puts more pressure on Stevenson to remain healthy. Any sort of injury to him could cripple New England’s already-struggling offense.