FOXBOROUGH – The New England Patriots will get at least a couple of key players back from injury and will likely get a couple more in what's essentially a must-win game for them in their regular-season finale on Sunday.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Marcus Jones were both full participants at Friday's practice and were removed from the injury report, meaning they'll play against the Buffalo Bills. Both players have missed game action due to a concussion in recent weeks, with Parker being impacted more by his concussion than Jones. The veteran wide receiver was concussed early in the Patriots' Week 14 win over the Arizona Cardinals and missed the last three games. Jones suffered a concussion during the Patriots' Week 16 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones played the entirety of that game but missed the Patriots' win against the Miami Dolphins last week.
#Patriots certainly seem loose in their penultimate practice of the regular season. Matthew Judon and DaMarcus Mitchell get a good dance in during stretches, could it be because Marcus Jones and Jonnu Smith returned to practice? #ForeverNE pic.twitter.com/ACEIcloS9m
— Conor Roche (@ConorRoche27) January 5, 2023
Parker and Jones might end up playing key roles against the Bills. Parker's had a bit of a quiet season, recording just 25 receptions for 460 yards and a touchdown in 12 games, but he appeared to be getting a bit more involved prior to his concussion. He had four targets in each of the two games prior to the concussion, recording six receptions for 96 yards, and had two receptions on two targets for 24 yards in the two drives he played against the Cardinals.
Jones has become a utility player for the Patriots. In the last matchup against the Bills, he actually caught a screen pass on his first career NFL snap and ran it 48 yards for a touchdown. He also had the game-winning punt return touchdown against the New York Jets in Week 11 and a 69-yard pick-6 against the Bengals, joining Deion Sanders as the only players in NFL history to ever record a 40-plus-yard touchdown of each variety (receiving, punt return, and interception).
JONES TO JONES FOR THE TD!
— NFL on Prime (@NFLonPrime) December 2, 2022
In addition to his dynamic playmaking abilities, Jones has grown in coverage as the season's gone on. In Week 15, he held Davante Adams to only two receptions for 14 yards on three targets when the Patriots lost to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Patriots PICK SIX! @MarcusJonesocho with a huge steal in NE 😱
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2022
Cornerback Jalen Mills and tight end Jonnu Smith are listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Mills has missed the Patriots' last five games due to a groin injury and after missing practice during that time but returned in the Patriots' final practice before their game against the Dolphins last week. He's practiced all week long, which is a good sign for his chances of playing.
Smith, like Jones, also suffered a concussion in the game against the Bengals. He's mostly been quiet this season, but had five receptions on seven targets in his last two games. Smith was walking around in the Patriots' locker room following practice and during media availability, which is a good sign for his chances of playing too.
Cornerback Jonathan Jones (chest) and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (shoulder) are also both listed as questionable for Sunday's game. However, both players were listed as questionable before playing in recent weeks. While both players were dinged up in the Patriots' Week 17 win, they both said following the game that they expect to play in Week 18.
The Bills list anyone as out for Sunday's game, though, of course, they'll be without safety Damar Hamlin after he went into cardiac arrest during Monday's game against the Bengals. He was moved to injured reserve on Friday.