And the hits just keep on coming for the Patriots defense as now it is being widely reported that Jerod Mayo had surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and will quite probably miss the rest of the season.

Mayo sustained the injury against the New Orleans Saints while making a tackle with Safety Steve Gregory and didn’t return. He was seen leaving Gillette Stadium with his arm in a sling.


Jerod Mayo had surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and will likely miss the rest of the season.
(USA TODAY Images)

The defense has already taken significant hits with DT/NT Vince Wilfork lost for the season, fellow DT Tommy Kelly missed the New Orleans game with a knee injury and CB Aqib Talib also left the Saints game with a hip injury. Rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have filled in fairly well so far but could use some veteran help.

The loss of Wilfork and Mayo means both captains on the defense are now gone. The void in leadership will be tangible as both serve as examples both on and off the field. Now some of the mantle of leadership will have to fall to players like Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich.

But the on-field problems will present a different set of circumstances. It will undoubtedly have to be a collective effort to replace Mayo because they won’t be able to replace him with one player.

To call the signals, this will fall to Donta’ Hightower who will now wear the green dot for the defense. He’s already done this earlier in pre-season against the Philadelphia Eagles. Erik Frenz from Boston.com wrote an excellent piece and spoke to Hightower about the unique issues in wearing the communication device and calling the plays.

Dane Fletcher has seen limited action this season but has played significant snaps in the past and is a good coverage linebacker. Steve Beauharnais is on the 53 man roster and will no doubt now be activated for more games.

With Jamie Collins also in the mix, look for the Patriots to rotate some of these players around a lot more. With Wilfork and Kelly out, the onus on stopping the run will fall to Brandon Spikes but Hightower will be called upon much now.

The Patriots will have to do much more mixing and matching now depending upon the down and distance as Collins and Fletcher should see much more playing time. If there is a silver lining to the injury situation, at least the Patriots are very deep at the linebacker position…that depth will likely be put to the test now.

Also keep in mind that due to the depth of the defensive ends on the roster and the emergence of rookie Michael Buchanan allows Chandler Jones to slide inside to help ease some of the burden of the interior of the line during passing situations and that will also give some of the rookie DTs some veteran help at times.

Armond Armstead is also eligible to begin practicing now at defensive tackle. And the team should make a decision on him as well soon. The mantra in Foxboro has always been “Next Man Up” in regards to injuries, but with some of these it will require more than one man to fill the holes.

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