Patriots face uncertainty at WR position heading into Week 16 against the Bills

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  • New England Patriots
    New England Patriots
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  • Jakobi Meyers
    Jakobi Meyers
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  • Kendrick Bourne
    Kendrick Bourne
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The New England Patriots aren’t in trouble at their receiver position — not yet. But the situation is troubling.

The team placed Kendrick Bourne on the COVID-19/reserve list on Monday, which puts his status in doubt for Sunday. If he’s vaccinated and COVID-positive, there’s a chance he could play by testing out with back-to-back negative test results. If he’s unvaccinated and was merely a close contact, he could also return to the facility before the game. But there are plenty of scenarios where he could not make a return. And even if he is vaccinated, it has been uncommon this year for COVID-positive players to test out within the same week that they tested positive.

So that should get us looking at the other starters: Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers. While Meyers is healthy (so far as we know), Agholor suffered a head injury in Saturday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He exited the game and did not return.

Past them, the Patriots have N’Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski. But Harry, like Agholor, is dealing with a head injury. Olszewski has never shown any in-game potential or competence at the position.

So the Patriots’ situation looks like this….

53-man roster:

Agholor (head)
Meyers
Bourne (COVID-19/reserve)
Harry (head)
Olszewski

Practice squad

Kristian Wilkerson
Tre Nixon

The Patriots have elevated Wilkerson, but he looked far more comfortable running jet sweeps than downfield receiving routes. Nixon, a seventh-round draft choice, has yet to see NFL game action.

If Bourne, Agholor and Harry cannot play, the Patriots will basically have to rely upon Meyers and their two tight ends, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Running backs Brandon Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson may help lift the load in the passing game — and they may have to, with Damien Harris missing last week with a hamstring injury.

It’s not a great week for New England in terms of injuries and it’s rough timing, with the Patriots and Buffalo Bills battling for the top spot in the AFC East on Sunday.

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Patriots remain one of the least aggressive 4th-down teams. Why?