The Patriots have had so many injuries this season that some of their noteworthy ones have fallen under the radar. That has been the case with Brandon Spikes, who missed practice today with a knee injury.
Spikes has battled a lingering knee injury most of the year, but it didn't garnish much attention until his sudden demotion from "probable" to "questionable" the day of Week 12's Broncos showdown. Spikes did play in that game and has yet to miss a game this season, but he looked like the knee was affecting him in last week's win over the Texans. Profootballfocus gave Spikes easily his worst run defense grade of the season in that game, noting that Spikes lacked his usual ferocity in attacking the line of scrimmage.
If Spikes is unable to go on Sunday, it will be a big blow to a run defense that is already reeling from the injury losses of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo. Of course, the Browns come in averaging a paltry 3.7 yards per carry, so maybe Sunday will be a contest of which weakness bends more.
Another spot where injuries are starting to mount a little bit is at wide receiver. Aaron Dobson was absent from practice as he continues to deal with a foot injury that kept him out of last week's game, while Kenbrell Thompkins took only limited reps. According to ESPN Boston's Field Yates, Thompkins "appears to still be recovering." If both rookies are unavailable, it will likely mean more reps and targets for Danny Amendola, as well as a continued reliance on Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman to make chain-moving plays.
Right tackle Marcus Cannon also remained sidelined by an ankle injury. Veteran backup Will Svitek stepped up with a solid performance last week against Houston and will likely be counted on to do so again against an underrated Cleveland front.
There was some good news from the injury front, as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard both returned to practice. It was the first Hooman sighting since the tight end left Week 11's loss to Carolina with a knee injury, while Dennard left Week 12's Denver win in the second quarter and missed last week with a knee as well. Since reporters are only present during stretching and individual drills, it's currently unknown how close either player is to returning to game action, but their return to practice can only be seen as a positive sign.