The Patriots placed linebackers Matt Judon and Ja’Whaun Bentley on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after both tested positive Monday.
Judon and Bentley are now in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game against Jacksonville.
The NFL has modified its health and safety protocols, making it easier for vaccinated players who are asymptomatic to return to action. Previously, such players had to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart. Now, they can potentially return sooner, depending on their “cycle threshold” value, a metric reflective of an individual’s viral load and contagiousness.
Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was able to play against Buffalo Sunday after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last Monday.
If Judon and Bentley are unvaccinated, they automatically will be sidelined for 10 days.
If they end up unable to play, the Patriots will miss both players. Judon leads the team in sacks (12.5) and quarterback hits (25), while Bentley ranks second in tackles (88).
Running back Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. No player, regardless of vaccination status, is allowed to practice until he is activated off the list.
The Jaguars also had multiple additions to the Reserve/COVID-19 list: tight ends Dan Arnold, Luke Farrell, and Chris Manhertz; defensive tackles Malcom Brown and DaVon Hamilton; defensive end Jihad Ward; linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Lerentee McCray; center Brandon Linder; and left guard Andrew Norwell.
Harry’s time unproductive
Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry was on the field for all but three of the offense’s snaps Sunday against the Bills, by far his most playing time this season.
The spike in reps didn’t correlate with increased production, however, as Harry finished with two catches for 15 yards.
One of his incompletions was a brutal drop on first down in the second quarter. With the Bills leading, 10-7, and the ball on New England’s 33-yard line, quarterback Mac Jones hit an open Harry in his hands for what would have been a 15-yard gain. But Harry couldn’t hang on to the ball before cornerback Levi Wallace tackled him.
“I think that type of stuff happens,” Jones said Monday afternoon in his weekly radio interview. “I think when you look at the route and all that, he ran a great route and he’s made that catch a lot of times. It’s part of sports. I just told him to play the next play.”
On New England’s next play, Jones again targeted Harry, only this time linebacker A.J. Klein tipped the pass. The ball still made its way to Harry, but he and cornerback Siran Neal batted it it high in the air and into the arms of safety Micah Hyde.
“We went back to him in that situation with who they had in the game and all that,” Jones said. “I don’t think it was anything that we did that we want to do differently. It was just — the guy tipped it and they made a good play.”
Harry continued to earn reps. In the third quarter, he made a 10-yard reception to convert a third down in Bills territory. Harry finished with 61 snaps, 95 percent of the offense’s total and the most of any Patriots offensive skill player Sunday.
While Harry can play an important role as a blocker, his production has left much to be desired, especially for a first-round pick. This season, he’s registered 12 catches on 21 targets (57.1 percent catch rate) for 184 yards. In three years as a Patriot, he’s totaled 57 receptions on 102 targets (55.9 percent catch rate) for 598 yards.
“N’Keal has been working hard,” Jones said. “I think he just has to continue to work hard. He’s been practicing really hard and doing all the things he can. I don’t think it’s an effort issue. But he’s definitely trying to get better, just like all of us are.”
Other notes from Sunday’s snap counts:
▪ Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was on the field for 30 snaps, 47 percent of the offense’s total, in his return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Bourne didn’t practice all week after testing positive. He earned his first target in the final minutes of the first half and finished with two catches for 33 yards.
▪ The Patriots continue to use offensive tackle Mike Onwenu as a jumbo tight end/additional blocker. He was on the field for 17 snaps, 27 percent of the offense’s total.
▪ Practice-squad cornerback D’Angelo Ross played five snaps in his season debut. The 25-year-old Ross was temporarily activated just for Sunday’s game, while Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade — both on the 53-man roster — were healthy scratches.
▪ The Patriots’ defense was on the field for 79 plays, their second-highest total of the year behind the overtime loss to Dallas in Week 6 (89). Perhaps fatigue played a factor down the stretch.
▪ Second-year linebacker Josh Uche, in his first game back off injured reserve, played a season-low seven defensive snaps.
▪ Third-year defensive end Chase Winovich did not log a defensive snap for his third straight game. He did play a role on special teams, where he played 64 percent of the team’s snaps.
No requests yet
The Raiders and Jaguars can begin virtual interviews this week with candidates for their head coaching openings. As of Monday morning, Bill Belichick said neither team had inquired to speak to any member of the Patriots’ staff.