TUCSON, Ariz. — Mac Jones could be without several of his most capable offensive weapons when the New England Patriots visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. But the quarterback is confident in their backups to pick up the slack.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker and running back Rhamondre Stevenson both have not practiced this week after leaving Monday night’s win over the Arizona Cardinals with head and ankle injuries, respectively. Wideout Jakobi Meyers (concussion) was a DNP on Thursday after officially being listed as limited in Wednesday’s practice at the University of Arizona. Meyers missed the Cardinals game, as did running back Damien Harris, who’s been limited this week as he works his way back from a thigh injury.
The Patriots will practice once more in Arizona on Friday before flying to Vegas. Jones said he doesn’t know whether Parker, Stevenson, Meyers or Harris will be available Sunday but has faith in New England’s other skill-position players to step up if need be.
“Whoever’s going to be out there is going to be out there, and I’m confident in all the guys,” the second-year QB said. “I’ve gotten reps with them, whether that be in offseason or even before the offseason when we came together, just throwing with different guys. I’m ready for everybody. At the end of the day, we’ve got a great group, and there’s no dropoff.”
Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Tyquan Thornton and three-way player Marcus Jones round out the Patriots’ receiving corps behind Meyers and Parker, who rank first and second on the team in receiving yards. Rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris are the secondary options at running back behind Stevenson and Harris, who form one of the NFL’s top backfield duos when healthy. The Patriots also have two highly paid but inconsistent tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
Bourne and Henry were Jones’ most reliable targets against Arizona, combining to catch all eight of their targets for 117 yards. Strong and Harris — complete nonfactors on offense for the first 13 weeks of their young NFL careers — impressed in relief of the Patriots’ injured backs, with each scoring one rushing touchdown in the win. Strong, a fourth-round draft pick out of South Dakota State, finished with a team-high 90 yards from scrimmage on seven touches (five carries, two catches).
“I’m really happy with those guys and the way they fight and work through (adversity),” Mac Jones said. “We had a lot of stuff happen the last game with some injuries and stuff like that. They’re just working together, playing different positions that they might not normally play and trying to help the team. So it’s pretty cool to have that group, and I definitely feel like they’re definitely improving. I’ve just got to get them the ball and let them work.”
The Patriots could look to add offensive reinforcements from their practice squad. Lynn Bowden and Tre Nixon are reserve options at wide receiver, and J.J. Taylor is New England’s fifth running back. Bowden and Taylor each have appeared in one game this season; Nixon, a 2021 seventh-round pick, has yet to make his regular-season NFL debut.
New England also now lists practice squadder Scotty Washington, who signed as a tight end in September, as a wideout on its official roster.
“We’ll see,” Jones said when asked about potential practice squad elevations. “It’s not my choice, and hopefully those guys are feeling better, but at the end of the day, we’re confident in everybody. I think the guys on the practice squad, they’re working hard. They’re out here running, doing scout team and stuff. I think Lynn’s done a great job helping out and just being a smart football player and trying to learn different things and constantly ask questions, and Tre is the same way. All of those guys. Tre works hard, and they all do.
“At the end of the day, they hold each other to a good standard, and that’s what we’re all trying to get to — play together and play with no dropoff. I feel like we’re getting there. It’s definitely going to take time, and we’ve just got to keep working through all that stuff.”
Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (foot) and cornerback Jack Jones (knee) also have yet to practice this week, putting their availability for Sunday in doubt. Despite their rash of injuries, the Patriots are pegged as 1-point road favorites over a Raiders team that boasts the NFL’s second-worst defense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA.