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Thoughts on the loss of Tommy Kelly

Posted by Erik Frenz  November 2, 2013 05:21 PM

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The Patriots placed defensive tackle Tommy Kelly on season-ending injured reserve, the team announced on Saturday.

It's been one big injury after another for the Patriots, and you have to wonder which injury will be the one that serves as the proverbial (hopefully not literal) backbreaker.

How much does this one hurt the Patriots? Some quick thoughts.

  • Kelly injured his knee in Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals, on a non-contact injury in the fourth quarter. He has not been on the active game day roster since then. He practiced on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time in three weeks, when the injury occurred, but he did not practice on Friday.Kelly originally believed the injury was not serious, but after trying to give it a go, it was decided his season is over.
  • At least this time, the Patriots weren't blindsided by the injury. Back-to-back injuries to Kelly and Vince Wilfork created the opportunity for rookie defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones to earn the snaps. According to stats website Pro Football Focus, Vellano and Jones have each earned at least 84 percent of the snaps in each of the past three games. That's too heavy of a workload for any defensive tackle to carry over the course of a season. For perspective, Wilfork and Kelly combined to go over 84 percent of the snaps in just one game this season when they were healthy.
  • With that in mind, the work load for those two will likely go down a bit with defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga in the fold. The veteran has played 39.4 percent of the snaps this season for the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Taking a more long-term view, the experience for Vellano and Jones could help prepare them to be complementary defensive ends to Wilfork and Kelly when the two return to health next year. They could then carve out a niche as nickel pass-rushers on the inside. That's a valuable spot on the roster the Patriots haven't been able to fill in some time. Over the past two years, specifically, the Patriots have tried defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Chandler Jones in that role with mixed results.
  • On the other hand, this injury might not bode well for Kelly's long-term future with the team. He was signed on a two-year, $5 million contract this past offseason. He would count for $3 million against the salary cap in 2013 according to sports contracts website Spotrac. The Patriots could get back all but $500,000 of that by releasing him. He will be 33 years old next season, and coming off a serious knee injury, the Patriots may have second considerations.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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