If the New England Patriots are going to win their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history this season, they will have to do so without their starting middle linebacker — Jerod Mayo.
Today, it was announced that the Patriots had placed Mayo on the Injured Reserve list, a sign that they will be out him for the rest of the season.
Mayo suffered a shoulder injury early on in the Patriots’ 27-20 AFC Divsional round win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
So far this season, Mayo had not been as big of a part of the Patriots defense as he had in the past, oft overshadowed by Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. Even so, he was still as talented — and replacing him will be tough for New England — especially as they head into the biggest game of the season against the Denver Broncos.
Collins and defensive end Chandler Jones also left the game for the Patriots with injury. On offense, center Bryan Stork and Julian Edelman suffered injuries. But they have not been ruled out.
Defensively, losing anyone at this point is not a good sign for the Patriots, especially a two-time Pro Bowler. In 16 regular season games, Mayo recorded 47 tackles and a sack. His stats were far from career highs as he was on the field for just 36.2 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, according to ESPN. But he played a key role in the team’s run stopping defense.
ESPN also points out that the Patriots’ run defense ranked top-10 among the 32 teams this season.
The Patriots will likely go with the next man up mentality and if that is the case, Jonathan Freeny is next on the depth chart at middle linebacker, meaning he will most likely see an expanded role come Sunday.
Freeny started at linebacker for the Patriots in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on December 6. In that game, he recorded five tackles. For the most part though, his role has been on special teams.
The Patriots’ first practice of the week is not until tomorrow, so everyone else’s status is unclear.