Patriots Notebook: WR Malcolm Mitchell placed on injured reserve
FOXBORO — Before the Patriots could begin their official Super Bowl defense, they became even thinner at wide receiver.
Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve yesterday due to the knee issue that plagued the vast majority of his offseason. He is eligible to return in eight weeks if the Patriots choose to use that designation on him, but it’s not clear yet whether or not that is the plan, according to a source.
Mitchell missed the entire offseason workout program because of his knee, and he went down again during the first practice of training camp. He returned to practice during the second week of the preseason at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, but James O’Shaughnessy rolled into his knee a few days later in the exhibition loss to the Texans.
Mitchell missed the preseason finale against the Giants and was limited at practice this week before the Patriots pulled the plug on his regular-season debut. They activated interior lineman Ted Karras from the practice squad to fill Malcolm’s roster spot.
It’s believed Mitchell’s injury played a significant role in the Patriots’ pursuit of wideout Phillip Dorsett, who was active last night against the Chiefs. The Pats sent quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts on Saturday in exchange for Dorsett, a 2015 first-round draft pick.
Under that notion — the Patriots knowing last week that Mitchell’s immediate future was murky — it’s certainly worth noting they could have placed him on injured reserve Saturday in order to keep rookie receiver Austin Carr, who was claimed off waivers by the Saints. But if the Pats did make that move, Mitchell wouldn’t have been eligible to return this season. Therefore, that’s a sign that points toward a potential return in a couple months.
Dorsett adds a legitimate level of talent and long-term potential to the position, which is important both now and in the future. If Mitchell, who had three surgeries on his right knee in college, can’t overcome those woes, the Pats at least have another young receiver to develop. Dorsett is signed through 2018, and the Patriots can exercise his 2019 option after this season if they wish.
The Pats already lost wide receiver Julian Edelman to a torn ACL, so they’ll need Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola to step up even more than originally expected. Of course, tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister are also capable pass catchers to various degrees, and running backs James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee can be active out of the backfield.
Mitchell, a fourth-round pick out of Georgia, had a promising rookie season with 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns, and he capped it with six catches for 70 yards in Super Bowl LI.
Now, the question is whether or not Mitchell’s second season is over, or if the Patriots will use one of their two return designations on him.
The Patriots couldn’t hide their personnel packages anymore, so here were a few things they unveiled against the Chiefs.
Unsurprisingly, Amendola was the top punt returner in the absence of Edelman and Cyrus Jones. Patrick Chung and Chris Hogan also warmed up as punt returners, so they’re on the short list of backups for the time being.
Dont’a Hightower warmed up with the defensive linemen, which continued the trend of his positional drills at practice since he was activated from the physically unable to perform list. Hightower then primarily lined up on the defensive edge at the start of the game.
The Pats’ first defensive wrinkle last night came in the form of a four-safety package with Devin McCourty, Chung, Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards. They sometimes mixed it up with linebacker Elandon Roberts subbing in for Richards.
The Patriots kept cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (right) and Stephon Gilmore (left) to sides rather than using them for specific matchups. Eric Rowe worked as the third corner.
Kyle Van Noy was the defensive play caller with Hightower taking over responsibilities up front.
The Patriots’ inactive list included Matthew Slater (hamstring), Nate Ebner (shoulder), Vincent Valentine (knee), Cameron Fleming (ankle), Harvey Langi (concussion), Cole Croston and Jacob Hollister. Croston and Hollister were healthy scratches.
Adam Butler (knee) is the only player from the injury report who had been cleared to play. Karras, who was promoted to fill Mitchell’s spot, was also active as the top interior backup on the offensive line. LaAdrian Waddle was the backup swing tackle.