The Patriots took two steps before Tuesday’s deadline to reduce their roster to 80 players, including placing second-year linebacker Ronnie Perkins on season-ending injured reserve.
While it’s unclear exactly when the injury occurred, Perkins sat out the first two practices as New England continues its week in Henderson, Nevada at the Raiders’ facility.
The 2021 third-round pick’s season is now over, but it wasn’t a major surprise as Perkins was on the roster bubble and struggling to separate himself from the pack at outside linebacker. Despite one sack and five quarterback pressures in two preseason games, Perkins wasn’t standing out in training camp practices and fell down the depth chart.
During a stellar career at the University of Oklahoma, Perkins was a grounded defensive end in the Sooners’ (4-3) event scheme. With the Patriots, Perkins began transitioning to a standing outside linebacker role to fit into the Pats’ 3-4 base defense.
For many reasons, these transitions are not easy physically or mentally. The techniques, assignments, and mental processing from a game recognition perspective are all very different.
In 16 training camp drives this summer, Perkins had only a few notable plays in 11-on-11 team drills, while 2020 Day 2 picks Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings had had a more significant impact.
As he is most summers, Uche is an explosive passing thrower who bolsters New England’s third forfeit every time he’s on the pitch. In a two-minute drill to end Tuesday’s joint practice with the Raiders, Uche beat starting left tackle Kolton Miller for a “sack” on Derek Carr.
As for Jennings, the 2020 third-rounder is one of the surprising players in camp, after his first two injury-plagued seasons in the NFL. Thanks to above-average length and game strength, Jennings is emerging as a solid passing edge at the line of scrimmage where he thrived at Alabama.
With veteran Matthew Judon performing at his usual Pro Bowl standards in practice, the Patriots have already found a rhythm and established rotation at outside linebacker. New England also experimented with traditionally off-ball linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley as a standing rusher, and Bentley had a sack in Tuesday’s session working the line of scrimmage.
Perkins’ move to season-ending injured reserve leaves the Patriots a bit thin in terms of traditional outside linebackers. Perkins was projected as the fourth option for the Pats, who are still an odd-heavy forward defense (3-4), meaning they play most downs with two standing rushers.
As we mentioned, this could open the door for Bentley to play more edge shots this season, or Perkins’ status could create a roster spot for undrafted rookie DaMarcus Mitchell. Mitchell’s presence is mostly felt on special teams, where he’s recording reps with multiple units in the kicking game, but he flashed late on defense last week against the Panthers (sack, two carries).
At this point, Perkins was unsure if he would make the original 53-man roster, and this decision confirms that Judon, Uche and Jennings are the only three roster locks in that position.
In addition to placing Perkins on injured reserve, the Patriots also moved rookie offensive lineman Andrew Stueber to the reserve/non-football injured reserve. Stueber has yet to practice in training camp and is reportedly recovering from an injury he suffered in practice this offseason.
Typically, Stueber can come back after missing four regular season games, but it would be a surprise if we see the University of Michigan’s seventh round this season.
The Patriots have another major cut day approaching, as all teams will have to cut their rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on August 30.