Ronnie Perkins Injury

In order to get down to the 80-man limit that was mandated by the NFL on Tuesday, the Patriots made two roster moves, the most notable of which was the placement of second-year linebacker Ronnie Perkins on injured reserve.

As New England continues its week at the Raiders facility in Henderson, Nevada, Perkins has missed the first two practices due to an injury, the nature of which remains unknown.

Although it came as a shock to no one, Perkins’ season as a 2021 third-round pick came to an end this week. He was on the roster’s edge and never managed to separate himself from the rest of the pack at outside linebacker. Despite making an impact in both preseason games (one sack and five quarterback pressures), Perkins was sent to the bench during training camp.

Perkins had a stellar career as a defensive end for the Oklahoma Sooners, where he played in their even front defense (4-3). In order to fit into the Patriots’ base 3-4 defense, Perkins started making the shift to a stand-up outside linebacker role.

Those changes are difficult on the body and the mind for a number of different reasons. From the perspective of recognizing plays, the procedures, tasks, and thought processes are very different.

While Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, both of whom will be selected on Day 2 in 2020, made a greater impact in 11-on-11 team drills than Perkins did in the 16 training camp practices this summer.

As is the case in most summers, New England’s third-down package benefits from Uche’s presence on the field because of his disruptive pass-rush. Uche got a “sack” on Derek Carr in the final two-minute drill of Tuesday’s joint practice with the Raiders by beating starting left tackle, Kolton Miller.

After two injury-plagued seasons in the NFL, third-round pick Jennings has emerged as a standout performer at training camp. Jennings is flourishing at Alabama’s line of scrimmage again, and it’s all thanks to his above-average length and playing strength.

The Patriots have found a rhythm and established rotation at outside linebacker, with veteran Matthew Judon performing to his customary Pro Bowl standards in practice. The Patriots have also tried out Ja’Whaun Bentley, a linebacker, in a stand-up edge rusher role, and he recorded a sack while practicing at the line of scrimmage on Tuesday.

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The Patriots are now a little weak at traditional outside linebackers after putting Perkins on injured reserve for the rest of the season. The Patriots are still a heavy odd front (3-4), thus on most downs, they use two stand-up edge rushers, with Perkins penciled in as the fourth option.

A roster slot for undrafted rookie DaMarcus Mitchell may become available, or Bentley may get a chance to play more snaps on the edge this season. Mitchell has made the most of his opportunities on special teams, where he is practicing with multiple units in the kicking game, but he showed some promise in the closing minutes of last week’s game against the Panthers (sack, two hurries).

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Perkins wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the first 53-man roster, and this move secures Judon, Uche, and Jennings as the only sure bets at the position. The Patriots not only put Perkins on IR, but they also transferred rookie OL Andrew Stueber to the IR/NFI list. Stueber is rumored to be nursing an offseason training injury that has prevented him from participating in any training camp drills thus far.

Although the regulation allows the former University of Michigan seventh-round picks to return after missing four games, his appearance this year is quite unlikely. All teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on August 30, so that’s the next big cutdown day for the Patriots.

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