|Analysis of McKenzie injury||05.06.09 at 5:47 pm ET|
While New England wasn’t going to lean heavily on his services this year, the season-ending injury to rookie linebacker Tyrone McKenzie thins the inside linebacker position for the Patriots.
The third-round pick, who reportedly suffered a torn ACL at last weekend’s minicamp, is now believed to be lost for the season. McKenzie has some positional versatility, but would have provided depth at the inside spot in New England’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Now, the Patriots will likely be forced to lean on a variety of linebackers to provide relief to Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo on the side, a group that includes Gary Guyton (who replaced Bruschi on passing downs last year) and Eric Alexander, as well recent free agent signee Vinny Ciurciu and rookie free agent Antonio Appelby.
There also remains a wild card in all of this: Jason Taylor. If New England does indeed sign Taylor, they could plug him in on the outside and move Adalius Thomas — who has positional versatility — to inside linebacker. But at this moment, that all remains conjecture.
One more note: Before the extent of McKenzie’s injury was fully-known, an e-mailer asked me about the possibility of Appelby making the team. I responded that, just by looking at the numbers, Appelby faced a difficult climb in making the 53-man roster, even though he has experience in a 3-4 Belichick-style defense with Al Groh in Virginia. Now, the opportunity certainly exists for Appelby to not only make the 53-man roster, but make an impact as a rookie.
However, in the end, if there’s one player who can deal with adversity, it’s McKenzie. His long road to the NFL is detailed here. It was a jourmey that drew the admiration of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“I would just say of all the players that I’ve talked to and we’ve interviewed this year and even through the years, that Tyrone is amongst the most impressive,” Belichick said. “Maturity, intelligence, what he’s done with the opportunities that he’s had or that he’s had to overcome, how he’s approached them, how he’s dealt with them, how he’s made the most of them. … It hasn’t been easy.
“Yet, he’s continued to excel, jump over hurdles and overcome obstacles that I think would have derailed a lot of other people and/or football players. I think he’s a very impressive, mature, humble young man.”
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