By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you hadn’t heard already, the Patriots are having some problems on their offensive line. Some big ones.
When Sunday’s game in Houston kicks off, the Patriots will be without four of their Week 1 starting offensive linemen. And they’ll be without three linemen who started last weekend’s game vs. Tampa Bay.
Yet while you surely know that Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu are on the COVID list, and that Shaq Mason (abdomen) is out for this one, and that Trent Brown (calf) is now on IR after playing just one series all year, you may not know who will actually be in charge of protecting Mac Jones and creating holes for Damien Harris on Sunday.
Let’s work on that.
At center, it’s still David Andrews, the lone man standing from the Week 1 starting crew.
In the guard spots, expect Ted Karras and James Ferentz to get the bulk of playing time. Both of them have experience in the Patriots’ system, and Karras actually replaced Onwenu mid-game last week and ended up playing about half of the team’s snaps. Ferentz was elevated from the team’s practice squad for this game, using one of the team’s two COVID designations. (The other COVID elevation was cornerback Myles Bryant, who will likely get some playing time with Jalen Mills ruled out.)
The Patriots also elevated linemen William Sherman and Alex Redmond from the practice squad for this game. Sherman is a rookie, the 197th overall pick in this year’s draft out of Colorado. Redmond spent the first five years of his career with the Bengals before signing with the Patriots in May.
At the tackle spot, you’ve already seen Justin Herron and Yasir Durant get significant playing time on the right side during Brown’s extended absence. Those two figure to shoulder the bulk of the tackle work on Sunday, with Yodny Cajuste also available if/when needed. Cajuste is in his third NFL season after the Patriots drafted him 101st overall in 2019, but his first two seasons ended in injury.
Durant struggled in his first appearance this year but may have been the better of the two who have gotten that playing time this year. Granted, the work of Herron and Durant has not exactly been a point of strength for the Patriots, but Durant may be the better choice on the right side.
Put together, and the most likely offensive line combination looks like this:
LT: Justin Herron
LG: Ted Karras
C: David Andrews
RG: James Ferentz
RT: Yasir Durant
Backups: T Yodny Cajuse, G William Sherman, G Alex Redmond
(If David Andrews needs to miss any snaps, Karras or Ferentz can slide over to center.)
UPDATE: Cajuste actually got the start at left tackle, with Herron starting at right tackle and Durant starting on the sideline.
Clearly, this isn’t what anyone envisioned when they spent the summer talking about “one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.” Yet as has been proven many times over, nothing is ever guaranteed in the NFL.