Malcolm Mitchell's status for season opener in jeopardy

Elise Amendola / AP Photo

Malcolm Mitchell was one of the biggest success stories of the 2016 season. The fourth-round rookie out of Georgia overcame elbow and knee injuries to become a key cog in the Patriots offense and post over 75 receiving yards in the Super Bowl (becoming the first rookie every to catch a pass from Tom Brady in the big game in the process). Now, ESPN's Mike Reiss seems to think his encore might have to wait just a little longer.

Mitchell was held out of all spring work with knee ailments, and he's been in and out of practice throughout camp as well. While he played 15 snaps against the Texans in Week 2 of the preseason, Reiss noted that he caught only two passes and was seen grabbing his knee at points during the contest. Following that game, he's missed two consecutive days of practice and looks to be unavailable for the Patriots' third preseason game against Detroit as well.

If those injuries continue (or if he rushes back during the preseason and re-aggravates the injury once again), Mitchell may very well be on the sidelines for the 2017 opener against Kansas City on September 7. If that comes to pass, it would be a significant blow to the New England attack: Mitchell was deadly on deep comeback routes last year, a skill that helped stretch the field both laterally and vertically.

Reiss still said that "Mitchell's roster spot is considered safe" at this juncture, but his unavailability does raise concerns about his long-term potential with the team. Considering that "bubble" players like Austin Carr and Devin Lucien have both outperformed expectations, New England might be hard-pressed to keep Mitchell on the roster over one of those guys a year or two down the line. Hopefully Mitchell returns with a bang--but if he doesn't, he might have to face some stiff competition for a roster spot.

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