The New England Patriots' linebacker depth has taken a huge hit.
Tough break for #Patriots linebacking depth: I'm told LB Dane Fletcher has suffered a torn— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 10, 2012
Rapoport left his followers hanging for a minute before he reported that the injury was an ACL injury.
ACL— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 10, 2012
This is a devastating injury to a linebacking group that lacks great depth—after Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, the talent level drops off tremendously.
Fletcher played in 10 games last year, recording 32 tackles and forcing one fumble. He played 13 games in 2010, making 23 tackles, recording two sacks and forcing one fumble. The young linebacker was a solid contributor to the Pats.
The 25-year-old will take a while to recover from the injury, as torn ACLs generally take eight to 12 months to recover.
Fletcher was injured covering a punt when he knocked knees with another Saints player. On the play, a Saints lineman jumped offside and gave the Pats an automatic first down.
What it Means Regarding the 53-Man Roster:
With Fletcher likely gone for the year, look for Jeff Tarpinian or Mike Rivera to take his spot on the final roster. Tarpinian started one game last year, recording seven tackles in seven games. Rivera has not played in the NFL yet. Also, keep an eye on Tracy White to sneak on as a veteran. White would add experience to a fairly young group.
An injury of this severity is extremely damaging to a struggling defense. The Patriots will need someone to step up and thrive in a larger role in 2012.