Projected to be a strength coming into the season, the New England Patriots‘ offensive line has been a major question mark through four weeks.
Michael Onwenu turned in arguably the worst performance of his career against the Buccaneers on Sunday night. The 2020 sixth-round pick was called for a pair of costly holding penalties and allowed a couple of pressures before he was benched in the second half (he played just 54% of the snaps in total).
Trent Brown has been shelved longer than expected with a calf injury. The Patriots are sorely missing his 6-foot-8, 380-pound presence on the right side of the line.
Isaiah Wynn hasn’t been much better on the left side, as he got steamrolled by Vita Vea in Week 5 and nearly got Mac Jones killed.
It’s no surprise that David Andrews has been the group’s most consistent performer.
However, he might be the only first-stringer starting on Sunday vs the Texans, as Onwenu and Wynn both just landed on the COVID-19 list.
The Patriots placed starting OL Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday.
The Patriots are all too familiar with the hardships of missing key players on the COVID-19 list. Last year, they had eight players opt out prior to training camp, and Cam Newton testing positive flipped their season upside down.
It’s currently unclear if Wynn and Ownenu tested positive or if they were deemed close contacts to an individual carrying the virus. It’s also unclear if the two offensive linemen are vaccinated, so it’s difficult to make a projection about their status for Sunday’s game vs Houston until further details are provided.
Speaking of which, if the Patriots could time a COVID-19-related roster shuffle — not that any time is ideal — wouldn’t be it right before a matchup against the worst team in the NFL? After defeating the lowly Jaguars in Week 1, the Texans have lost their last three games by a combined 65 points.
In other words, New England should be able to dispose of Houston with or without Wynn and Onwenu, and might be able to learn something about their alternate OL options, too.
Assuming Wynn and Onwenu are unable to suit up for Sunday, the Patriots luckily have direct replacements lined up on the bench.
Ted Karras replaced Onwenu when he was benched vs the Buccaneers, so he’s the frontrunner to start at right guard. As for Wynn, the Patriots can turn to one of Justin Herron, Yasir Durant, or Yodny Cajuste.
If Brown is inactive for the fourth straight game, Herron is the odds on favorite to start at right tackle, as he did in Week 4. Given that Durant was unplayable against the Jets — and has been pretty much every other time he’s out there — you have to think Cajuste will get the nod at right tackle by default.
We’ll know more in the coming days (or even hours), but right now Patriots fans should plan to be without Wynn and Onwenu on Sunday.
Amazingly enough, that wasn’t the only bit of Patriots news that dropped on Tuesday evening. Shortly after confirming that Wynn and Onwenu were placed on the COVID-19 list, ESPN’s Field Yates reported that New England is nearing a deal to bring back free agent linebacker Jamie Collins.
The moment Detroit gave up and released Collins after they failed to trade him, you kind of got the feeling he’d end up signing with the Patriots. Assuming the agreement doesn’t fall apart, this will be Collins’ third go around in Foxborough.
The 31-year-old will join a linebacking room that’s been short on production outside of Matt Judon. That includes stalwarts like Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, who’ve combined for just 24 tackles (!) through four games.
Given his familiarity with and previous success in Bill Belichick’s system, don’t be surprised if Collins gets significant playing time on Sunday. The former Pro Bowler could form a dynamic partnership with Judon lining up on opposite ends of the defensive line, and Week 5 vs Houston could be their coming out party.