- The New England Patriots have a severe cluster injury issue in their offensive line.
- Four starting offensive linemen will be out for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
- Center David Andrews will be the only offensive line starter available for New England’s Week 5 matchup.
A very successful NFL handicapper once told me that the injuries that don’t make the headlines are the most significant. Whenever a starting quarterback goes down it becomes a top story on Sportscenter but the reality is that most teams have at least one capable backup. That isn’t always the case with the guys ‘in the trenches’–the offensive and defensive line. Most neophytes don’t understand how important it is for linemen to be used to playing together. This is one of the major reasons that serious handicappers keep their eyes open for situations where teams are missing starters along the line.
The New England Patriots are in precisely this sort of situation. They will enter this weekend’s game against the Texans at Houston with four of their five offensive linemen out of action. New England The team are without right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen) and right tackle Trent Brown (right calf) with injuries (Brown was placed on injured reserve earlier today). Left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu are on the reserve/COVID-19 list after having not practiced all week. Center David Andrews is the only offensive line starter available for Sunday’s game. This already difficult situation is made worse due to the necessity of protecting rookie quarterback Mac Jones. A patchwork offensive line is also problematic for the Pats’ struggling rushing attack. New England ranks 31st in team rushing yardage averaging a paltry 68.5 yards per game.
New England promoted three linemen from the practice squad to the active roster: James Ferentz, Alex Redmond, and William Sherman. Redmond is expected to get the start at right guard. Veteran Ted Karras is projected to start at left guard. Justin Herron and Yasir Durant are also expected to be in the starting lineup with Yodny Cajuste backing them up. Karras understands that the situation is not an ideal one:
“It’s definitely not an ideal situation, but we have a great, deep room. Everyone is working their hardest to put a winning performance out there Sunday … It’s an opportunity for a lot of us to be in the game when normally maybe we wouldn’t, and show what we can do and contribute to the team, and ultimately, hopefully, contribute to a victory.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows the implications of the situation but is hoping for the best:
“Whoever has the opportunity, I’m sure they’ll make the most of it. And I know the guys that have been at practice are working as hard as they can to be ready to go, and the guys that did are, likewise, preparing, and if they get the opportunity, I think they’ll be ready to go, too, so we’ll see how it all plays out. I don’t know.”
There’s at least some potentially mitigating factors concerning the Patriots’ offensive line situation. Most significant could be their opposition–the Houston Texans aren’t a very good team entering this matchup at 1-3. Houston ranks #28 in total defense allowing 401.8 yards per game, #28 in scoring defense (29 points against per game) and #28 in rushing defense (137 yards against per game). The offense isn’t any better–the Texans rank #30 in total offense (263.3 yards per game), #29 in scoring offense (16.8 PPG), #29 in passing offense (180.3 yards per game) and #26 in rushing offense (83 yards per game).
The woeful state of the Texans is evident in the pointspread for this game. Even with their cluster injury issues on the offensive line New England is a -7.5 or -8 point road favorite in Sunday’s game. The total on the game is 39 or 39.5.