5 players New England Patriots can't afford to lose to injury in 2024

New England simply cannot afford for these players to get hurt.
Jabrill Peppers of the New England Patriots
Jabrill Peppers of the New England Patriots / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Rhamondre Stevenson - Patriots running back

New England's running game, even though the Patriots had the ancient Ezekiel Elliott, dwindled once Stevenson was lost to injury after Week 13. No, the offense wasn't exactly spectacular before Stevenson was hurt, but without him, the team was completely neutered. Thankfully, the 26-year-old running back will return healthy for Week 1 of 2024. The only question is can he remain so?

Stevenson, who recently signed a massive new extension for four years and $36 million, has spent three seasons in the league, but in only one has he played a full year. That was in 2022 when he ran for over 1,000 yards and had another 421 yards receiving. His ability to pound out yards is only going to help whoever is under center for New England. That will eventually be Drake Maye whether he starts the first game of the season or the fourth.

A healthy Stevenson should be a productive one. His presence should mean Maye (or Jacoby Brissett) has to do less. This, of course, would be the complete opposite of the Pats offense at the end of 2023 which seemingly forgot they could run the ball.

Chukwuma Okorafor - Patriots offensive tackle

New England is taking a big chance here. Okorafor will be switching to the left side in 2024 after almost exclusively playing right tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2018. He also was not overly good for Pittsburgh and the team released him this offseason. New England thought enough of Okorafor to not only sign him to a one-year deal but make him the presumed starter at left tackle.

This seems like a big leap and not an overly smart move. Okorafor will be tasked with protecting his quarterbacks and he allowed 41 total pressures in 2022 on the right side. If the experiment with him on the left side goes south, he could allow 60 pressures. That would limit an offense just beginning to try to find its way under new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

New England seemingly has no real depth behind Okorafor, either. Caedan Wallace might have potential, but he is a rookie, and having success in one's first season at left tackle is extremely rare. The Patriots just have to hope Okorafor stays healthy and efficient or bad things will happen.

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