Bill Belichick stepped on one too many cracks in the sidewalk this offseason. He crossed paths with one too many black cats and broke one too many mirrors.
That's the only way to explain the poor injury luck the Patriots have had already in 2013.
The latest player on the list is linebacker Jerod Mayo, according to a report from Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports:
Yahoo sources: Pats Jerod Mayo has surgery on a torn pectoral muscle and could miss the rest of the season: http://t.co/3IiTejdc2m— Les Carpenter (@Lescarpenter) October 15, 2013
Mayo joins a lengthy list of injured Patriots that already includes defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Danny Amendola, guard Dan Connolly, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen.
Here are some thoughts on the litany of injuries, Mayo's specifically:
- It looks like there could be increased snaps for rookie linebacker Jamie Collins, who currently has just 52 defensive snaps this season according to stats website Pro Football Focus. He has been primarily a strongside linebacker for the Patriots, but he played all over the defense in preseason, and his athleticism is comparable if not better than Mayo's. Dane Fletcher has been primarily a special teams player this year, but has four years of experience in the defense, and has been dependable when called upon. He had previously played just five defensive snaps all year prior to Mayo's injury, and played six after the veteran linebacker left the Saints game.
- The team's plans in the sub package remain a mystery. Collins and Fletcher are the two more athletic linebackers, but Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower have been the top two linebackers in sub packages next to Mayo, who has been a mainstay. A big part of Mayo's game was covering running backs in the flat, and sometimes tight ends over the middle. Look for all four linebackers to be used in some capacity, but Hightower and Spikes more frequently than the others.
- Like with Wilfork, the Patriots may miss Mayo's leadership as much as they miss his on-field talent. He has worn the green dot helmet as the signal-caller for the Patriots defense for years. Looking back to a previous storyline, Hightower earned some experience wearing the green dot helmet in training camp and in preseason games. That practice could come in handy. Fletcher also has experience in that role, and could be asked to be the new backup.
- Mayo has the seventh-most tackles in the NFL since joining the league in 2008. He's remained consistent despite switching positions several times in his career, going from 3-4 inside linebacker to 4-3 middle linebacker to 4-3 outside linebacker. The Patriots have linebackers who are great at some things, but no singular player who is as solid at everything as Mayo.
- The sheer volume of injuries to key players may make the 2013 season Belichick's biggest test yet as the Patriots head coach. There are currently seven starters injured (pending the status of Talib, Connolly and Kelly), and Vereen is one of the top role players in the offense. Has there been another year where the Patriots were hit by this many major injuries? The 2011 season comes to mind, with Julian Edelman at cornerback and Matthew Slater at safety due to injuries in the secondary.
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