NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots

Patriots running back Rex Burkhead reacts after his touchdown run against the New York Jets last month. Burkhead is out of today’s game at Washington.

Ahead of their annual Thursday night kickoff next week, the Patriots are holding out several starters Sunday against the Redskins.

Safety Patrick Chung (heel), running back Rex Burkhead (foot) and safety Nate Ebner (groin) have been ruled out. Chung, Burkhead and Ebner were listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. All three played last week at Buffalo.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/ribs) and linebacker Donta’ Hightower (shoulder) are the only players remaining on the Pats’ injury report who could play. Hightower sat out against the Bills, while Edelman gutted out a four-catch performance. Both were limited in practice all week.

Without Chung, the Patriots are expected to play backup safety Terrence Brooks in his place. Brooks has taken 64 defensive snaps this season and made two tackles. He’s served primarily in a special teams role, which becomes more pivotal with the absences of Burkhead and Ebner.

Newly-signed safety Jordan Richards figures to help the Patriots’ coverage units. The team signed Richards on Wednesday, barely a year after it traded him to Atlanta. Richards started a dozen games with the Falcons and signed with Oakland in the offseason before receiving his release on Aug. 30.

First-round rookie running back Damien Harris could make his offensive debut with Burkhead out. In his only NFL action to date, the Pats’ win over the Jets in Week 3, Harris was limited to five snaps on special teams.

Watson eyeing debut Thursday

A source confirmed to the Herald tight end Ben Watson did not travel with the team to Washington and is expected to make his 2019 debut Thursday against the Giants. Watson participated in two practices this week after missing Wednesday’s session. The staff’s game plan for Sunday did not include Watson.

When Watson returns, he is expected to provide a significant boost to a struggling tight ends group. Redskins coach Jay Gruden explained this week what he expects Watson to give the Pats upon making his on-field arrival.

“More physicality,” Gruden said. “He’s one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s experienced, he’s smart. So you can do a lot of different things with him, and I think that’ll add to their ability to run the ball even better and obviously the play-actions off of it where Tom really, really has a field day with his play action passes.

“That’ll help them out in both regards, which makes them even more dangerous.”

Jones avoids fine for Josh Allen hit

Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones drew a 15-yard penalty for his hit to the helmet of Bills quarterback Josh Allen last weekend.

He has not, however, drawn a fine from the league. A day after Jones told the Herald he had not heard from the NFL about the play, a league source said he will not be fined for the hit. Jones is expected to play against the Redskins.

Belichick drives down memory lane

As the Giants’ defensive coordinator in the ‘80s, playing the Redskins used to be an annual occurrence for Belichick. He took a few minutes to reflect on those days Friday, noting how New York always had the ‘Skins’ number.

“In those, call it ‘84 to ‘90 years, we couldn’t beat the Eagles, the Redskins couldn’t beat us and the Eagles couldn’t beat the Redskins. That’s the way it was a lot in, I don’t know, that period of six or seven years, whatever it was,” he said. “But yeah, Joe (Gibbs) did a great job with the one-back passing game. ... then other teams in the league copied that and really that’s pretty much all you see now, is one-back sets. It was an interesting transition period. Those games — it was a war.”

___