Throughout 2008, the New England Patriots have battled the injury bug and have still managed to fight for a playoff spot. Thanks to great coaching, selfless mindsets, and prepared personnel, the Patriots plan to charge into the playoffs with bandages all over franchise.
However, they are going to have to rely on some help from the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Seahawks in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Patriots of 2008 are quite a different team from 2007. Last season, the Patriots were nearly flawless. Shining every down, remaining perfect until one terrible February Sunday evening, the Patriots soared into 2008 with the same winning attitude as they have expressed for many years now.
They still maintain that strong attitude, but the players doing the expressing, are certainly ones that nobody expected to see playing this deep into 2008.
Offseason acquisition Tank Williams brought some experience to the Patriots' secondary. At the begining of the season, the Pats were in need of an experienced safety. Williams was not even able to make an impression with the Patriots.
He was place on injured reserve in August with a knee injury suffered in the first preseason game against Baltimore.
Shawn Crable is a rookie from Michigan. He is a linebacker of six foot five stature and 243 pounds. The Patriots linebackers have been getting older. Crable would have been a great addition to an experience linebacking core. Anybody that has watched Crable play knows that he is a presence around the football.
Huge and fast sum up the characteristics of Shawn Crable. He was placed on injured reserve in early November with a shin injury.
Another defensive rookie that is out for the season is Terrence Wheatley. The Patriots secondary, particularly at the cornerback position was in question at the start of 2008.
With the losses of Asante Samuel and Randall Gay, the Patriots signed young cornerbacks to fill the void. Terrence Wheatley showed some promise early in the 2008 season, but was placed on injured reserve in mid November with a wrist injury.
Yet another defensive player that will be missed for the remainder of the 2008 season, Pierre Woods. A third-year linebacker, Woods has shown adaptation to the Patriots' defensive schematics. Alongside Jarrod Mayo, Mike Vrabel, and Teddy Bruschi, Woods developed into a quick, young linebacker capeable of being succesful in Belichick's defense. Woods suffered a jaw injury in early December and was place on the injured reserve list.
Now, an offensive injury. Ryan O'Callaghan is a third-year offensive tackle for the Patriots. O'Callaghan has provided critical protection for Tom Brady in years past, contributing to the Patriots' remarkable success in 2008. He was placed on injured reserve in late August with a shoulder injury.
The Patriot's first round pick in the 2006 NFL draft will not finish the 2008 season. Laurence Maroney, a talented running back from Minnesota has been the Pats starting running back for two seasons, sharing one season with Corey Dillon. Maroney has not performed as well as expected, but is a force in the open field beyond the line of scrimage.
Maroney was place on the injured reserve list with a shoulder injury that has been bothering him dating back into last season.
According the NFL players, the "dirtiest player," Rodney Harrison will be out for the 2008 season. Harrison has been a force in the secondary for the Patriots since 2003. His agressive attitude will certainly be missed down the stretch. Although, when watching replacement Brandon Merriweather, I certainly see a young Rodney Harrison roaming the secondary.
Harrison not only made bone crushing hits to wide recievers over the middle, but he put them on quarterbacks too. There is no other safety in the NFL that could blitz successfully like Rodney Harrison. He may never play again after his knee injury against the Broncos in late October.
No doubt about, a huge blow to the Patriots defense. Thomas is such a force on defense. He has the ability to tackle two men with one arm! And who could forget the man that was pressuring Eli Manning every down in the Giant's final drive in Super Bowl XLII?
Adalius Thomas is big, wide, and surprisingly fast. This is one man that any Patriot's fan hates to see on the injured reserve list. Thomas broke his right arm against the Bills in early November.
Every New England Patriots fan's worst nightmare came to life in the first quarter of the first game in Septemeber 2008. The two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback went down with a knee injury. At first, it seemed like Brady could possibly make a return to the game because he did walk off the field. But that was not the case.
The one name no New England fan wanted to ever see on the dreaded injured reserve list was Tom Brady. He was place on injured reserve in September with a torn ACL in the left knee. Not only was that a problem, but the subsequent infection caused Patriot's nation to freak.
Interestingly enough, Brady's injury seemed to set the tone for the Patriots 2008 season. Big names, key injuries. It was all a sign of things to come for the Patriots in 2008. And they have fared well thus far, but still have quite some work to do heading into the last two weeks of the NFL season.