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Rex Burkhead and Ja'Whan Bentley Go on IR as 2018 Continues to Suck Ass

SourceThe New England Patriots have placed running back Rex Burkhead and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on injured reserve, the team announced Wednesday. …

Burkhead, who was on the injury report with a concussion after a season-opening win against the Houston Texans, left Sunday night’s loss against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter. The team reported he had a neck injury.

Burkhead played seven snaps in the game, and it was unclear when the injury occurred. His final play was on the kickoff return unit with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter, when Lions safety Charles Washington collided with him, and Burkhead’s head appeared to be thrust backwards for a moment. …

Bentley’s final play Sunday came with 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, as he was charging to tackle running back Kerryon Johnson and guard T.J. Lang landed on top of him. Bentley stayed down for a moment, seemingly due to the force of the 315-pound Lang.

Sigh. And so a season that’s pretty much had the worst opening since Walter White tore through the desert in an RV full of dying people wearing nothing but a gas mask and tighty whities, just got worse.

I admit that in an NFL season that’s already seen trips to the IR for legit, 7-figure stars like Jimmy Garoppolo, Deion Jones and Jerick McKinnon – not to mention the real world problems of guys like Ryan Shazier and Kam Chancellor – that losing a rotation running back and a rookie 5th round linebacker won’t move a lot of needles around the league. But it’ll move them in New England. It sure moved mine, from about a saggy east-southeast straight down to a limp due south.

With all due respect to Rex Burkhead, who was sort of expected to be the lead back in the rotation when he was signed for three years and just shy of $10 million, to me, Ju’Whaun Bentley is the real loss here. For one, Burkhead has never carried this team in the season-plus he’s been here. Nor has he had to.  Besides, if history is any guide (and like investment guys like to say, past performance is always an indication of future results, this team always manages to scrape up a system running back somewhere. Nick Caserio keeps a Contacts list of unemployed ball carriers there’s always a Blount Jonas Gray-Ellis waiting for a “…” text from him.

Bentley was looking like something special. Like I’ve been saying since early in camp, he was always around the ball. He played a lot faster than his Combine 40-time. And it seemed like the time he’d had at Purdue more than made up for his lack of experience in the pros. He was wearing the green dot, even with Dont’a Hightower on the field. He looked adequate in coverage. And had a veteran’s interception while staying with Luke Wilson in the deep middle Sunday, a play that turned the momentum of the game around. Until the Patriots managed to turn it right back again.

If there’s anything ironic about these two season enders coming when they have, it’s that about 20 hours ago I wrote about Sony Michel, the one guy who now gets quintuple the pressure on him by both of these injuries.

The Sony Michel that people are already saying is a draft bust. After missing most of camp. All of the preseason. And with two dozen career carries. He not only has the burden of making up for the loss of Burkhead, but it’s almost entirely up to him to salvage the Pats draft class of 2018. Isaiah Wynn went to IR shortly into the fake football games. Duke Dawson is on short term IR. Braxon Berrios and Danny Etling landed on the practice squad. I think. Who cares? Their only viable candidate to make this draft worthwhile in the short term just went down for the season and now it’s all up to Michel to make all those trades for all those picks pay off, now. Given that they’ve got nothing to show for their 1st & 2nd round picks going all the way back to Hightower in 2012, it’s hard to overstate how important it is that Michel be a huge positive. Even the best franchise can’t go that long between home runs at the top of the draft.

So not much pressure, Michel. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.