The first official injury report of the 2021 season provided both questions and answers for the New England Patriots, as they prepare to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Although the Patriots enjoyed perfect attendance at Wednesday’s practice, they listed three players on their inaugural injury report of the 2021 season. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor, defensive back Jalen Mills and offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste were listed as having limited participation. Agholor and Mills are apparently dealing with ankle injuries, while Cajuste is hampered by a hamstring injury.
Here is the full report:
New England Patriots
WR Agholor, Nelson — Ankle — Limited Participation
OL Cajuste, Yodny — Hamstring — Limited Participation
DB, Mills, Jalen — Ankle — Limited Participation
OL, Eichenberg, Liam — Thigh — Limited Participation
WR, Williams, Preston — Foot — Limited Participation
RB, Ahmed, Salvon — Back — Full Participation
S, Fejedelem, Clayton — Shoulder — Full Participation
WR, Parker, DeVante — Shoulder — Full Participation
LB, Roberts, Elandon — Knee — Full Participation
WR, Wilson, Albert — Quad — Full Participation
Though Cajuste is expected to provide solid depth along the offensive line, the potential injuries to Agholor and Mills could have notable implications for Sunday’s matchup with the Dolphins. Both players are listed as first-teamers on their respective depth charts.
Mills has evolved from a traditional outside cornerback to a defensive back capable of aligning in each spot within the Patriots secondary. In 2020, he regularly moved between box and free safety as well as perimeter and slot cornerback. Had Stephon Gilmore been ready to start the season, Mills was a primary candidate to align as the Patriots’ third perimeter cornerback, while also lining up in the slot and at either safety spot; similar to the role vacated by Jason McCourty. However, until the Pats star corner returns, Mills seemed to be New England’s best option as the team’s second starting cornerback. Should Mills’ injury affect his status for Sunday, Joejuan Williams should see increased snaps. The former second-rounder out of Vanderbilt has yet to emerge as a match with the Patriots press coverage schemes. Despite Williams’ size and length, newly acquired Shaun Wade may end up being a better fit there.
Adjusting to Agholor’s Absence?
While he is well-versed in playing out of the slot, Agholor was used most-often on vertical outside routes last season with the Las Vegas Raiders. Thus far, the Patriots have employed Agholor in the same fashion during organized team drills, taking advantage of his speed and ability to get open over the top. He has consistently found separation form his opponents, and has made quite the connection with quarterback Mac Jones. Still, the Patriots are already without the services of N’Keal Harry, who begins the season on injured reserve. Should Agholor be unable to suit up on Sunday, newcomer Kendrick Bourne may be the most-likely candidate to start along with incumbent Jakobi Meyers. Throughout training camp, the fourth-year wideout has shown impressive versatility. Bourne has aligned in the slot, and on the outside. Though his technical prowess allows him to win from either alignment, the expectation is that Bourne would see significant snaps as the Pats' second option at wideout.
Conspicuous by his absence from the report, the Pats rookie running back appears to be ready for action on Sunday. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Stevenson was reported to have suffered a dislocated thumb during practice last week. Despite the injury, there was optimism that the former Oklahoma Sooner would be able to play in the team’s season-opener. Not only was Stevenson a full-participant in practice on Wednesday, he was not listed in the report. Barring any setbacks, he looks to be a safe bet to make his NFL debut this weekend.