The New England Patriots were lucky to escape major injury to any of its starting offensive linemen last season.
That type of luck has not been replicated so far in 2019. Before the season even started, the Patriots lost starting center David Andrews for the season because of blood clots in his lungs. To make matters worse, right tackle Marcus Cannon went down with a shoulder injury in Week 1 and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who missed last season with a torn Achilles, was sidelined early in Week 2 with turf toe that is considered week-to-week.
After scouring the market and making several acquisitions already, the Patriots added another offensive tackle in former Tampa Bay left tackle Caleb Benenoch. A former fifth-round pick, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound lineman started all 16 games last season for the Buccaneers.
Benenoch worked out for nine different teams after being cut by Tampa, but wanted to work with Dante Scarnecchia specifically.
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Now, the Patriots are patching things together on the offensive line with some bumps and bruises. The Patriots made some other veteran acquisitions like Marshall Newhouse and Jermaine Eluemunor but will feel the brunt of these losses mostly in the running game.
Here is how the Patriots line up on the offensive line normally.
Isaiah Wynn – Joe Thuney – David Andrews – Shaq Mason – Marcus Cannon
With three of those starters out, including both tackles with unclear timetables, here’s how deep the Patriots are at the position.
Benenoch will slide into the primary left tackle role with Wynn out and could be used on the right side as well if Cannon’s injury takes longer to heal.
Marshall Newhouse, who started the game against Miami at the right tackle for Cannon, shifted over to the left side when Wynn went to the locker room. Newhouse started 13 games for the Green Bay Packers when they went 15-1 in 2011 and has been a swing tackle and journeyman ever since. Against Miami, he allowed a QB hit, two hurries, and took two penalties
Korey Cunningham subbed in for Wynn and played right tackle and also allowed two hurries while taking a penalty. The two got more into a groove as the game went on and protection started to improve.
These three are serving roles while rookie Yodny Cajuste, co-Big 12 lineman of the year with second-rounder Dalton Risner and Vikings rookie Dru Samia, recovers from offseason quad surgery. Cajuste has been seen around the facility and continues to rehab, though it is uncertain if he will suit up at any point this year.
So far, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are healthy (fingers crossed). But should further injuries occur it could impact this position as well. Thuney can play and position on the offensive line and switched to right tackle when Cannon got hurt against Pittsburgh.
In his place was Jermaine Eluemunor, a three-year veteran who was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2017. He was cut by the Baltimore Ravens after opening training camp as the starting guard. He was inactive for New England’s game against the Dolphins because of Cannon’s injury but could suit up if he’s able to go.
Ted Karras has stepped in seamlessly to the starting center in the absence of Andrews. And even though some of his shotgun snaps need work, he has done well in his pass protection.
His backup is James Ferentz, who struggled with his protection during preseason play but is a more natural fit to the position. Brady has taken some reps with him and he’s experienced enough to fill in if needed.
With so many injuries on the offensive line, the Patriots offense is effected in both the passing and running game. Here’s who it affects most:
Tom Brady — The veteran quarterback, who is not very mobile, has less time to throw creating more rushed passing plays and throwaways. Fortunately, he is known for his poise and pocket presence, quickly getting rid of balls when he feels a rush coming. But with a center, he has not typically worked with and a pair of backup tackles in the mix, Brady’s number may be impacted and were against Miami, throwing for only 264 yards on 20 for 28 passing.
James White & Rex Burkhead — Offensive line injuries aren’t a totally negative fantasy effect. Burkhead and White are routinely used as check-downs for Brady when he has no other option open downfield or needs to dump off a pass quickly. Both of these guys will benefit from that type of passing game, though it isn’t ideal to live and die by.
Sony Michel — The Patriots running back is a quick-hitting, power back who hits openings quickly. He had a better performance against Miami than against Pittsburgh, but it’s not certain if he’ll keep improving. He’s able to escape the backfield quickly but if the pocket collapses in a hurry he’ll end up taking a loss.
Josh Gordon — As an outside target who needs about 3-4 seconds to finish his route downfield, less protection time means fewer open looks downfield for Gordon. With Cannon and Wynn in the game, Brady had enough time to wait for his run to materialize. But without, Gordon will need to simplify and shorten his runs.
Julian Edelman — A slot receiver doesn’t need a lot of time to get open or really even a need to be open at all in Edelman’s case. Brady trusts Edelman who will benefit from extended touches no matter what the protection is.
Matt LaCosse — Not many people have him on their fantasy team, but he showed he can catch passes on tough throws. However, most of his work came in the pass or run blocking to supplement the injuries on the o-line.
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