FOXBOROUGH — Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm. Chandler Jones injured his ankle. Logan Mankins hurt his hip, calf and ankle.
Now Julian Edelman is out for the season. The dangerous punt returner and elusive wide receiver was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury by the New England Patriots on Tuesday.
The ailments keep piling up.
But so do the wins.
The Patriots’ sixth straight victory last Sunday clinched first place in the AFC East. But things don’t get easier. That streak, in fact, will be on the line Monday against the Houston Texans (11-1).
Like all teams, the Patriots (9-3) try to build depth. So, when a starter is sidelined, they can rely on his backup to fill in effectively, even if it means playing a different role. That happened at tight end when Gronkowski, the Patriots’ outstanding pass catcher and blocker, missed the past two games with a broken left forearm— with the likelihood he’ll miss at least two more.
The good news in that tight-end equation is that Aaron Hernandez, their other star tight end, is back after missing six games with a sprained right ankle.
One up, one down.
“Every player has some different strengths and so forth and you try to play to those guys’ strengths,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “I don’t think you go into it and you say . there’s only one Rob Gronkowski; there’s only one of those in the league.
“The guys that are going to be in there playing that role, (they) have to go in there and do the best they can do. That’s why they’re on the team and that’s why we have 53 guys on the roster, so everybody can contribute at one point or another.”
Trevor Scott did that at defensive end with two sacks in Sunday’s 23-16 win at Miami. Scott stepped in when Jones, a rookie who is tied for the team lead with six sacks, missed his second game, and his primary backup, Jermaine Cunningham, began a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.