The Patriots ongoing offensive line issues got some good news and some bad news on Thursday.
The good was that second-year starter Mike Onwenu returned to practice from the COVID list after missing about a week. Shaq Mason also returned to practice after missing work on Wednesday due to an abdomen injury that sidelined him for last weekend’s game against the Texans.
The bad was that tackle Justin Herron, who filled in as the starter at left tackle in Sunday’s win in Houston, missed practice due to a back injury that had limited him a day earlier.
So while the Patriots may not need to start four backups sandwiched around center David Andrews against the Cowboys the same way they did against the Texans, there remains uncertainty as to what the offensive line will look like against Dallas.
“We’ll take it day to day and see where things are at today,” Bill Belichick said in his Friday morning Zoom when asked for his level of concern regarding the line. “That’s all we can do, just go day to day.”
With Onwenu back practicing while Herron is out, Isaiah Wynn remains on the COVID list and Trent Brown resides on IR, Belichick was asked if the second-year player might be an option at tackle, considering he started 10 games at right tackle last fall as a rookie.
“Whoever it would be, any time you have to go deep at any position, then you’re looking at what would just be best to manage that situation on a short-term basis,” Belichick said. “It would depend on who else is in the picture and what else we’re talking about. And that’s still a little bit of a moving target here.”
Regardless of who is manning the front, and how those guys are dispersed across the line, Belichick sees knows his troops – both backups and regular starters – will have their hands full with Dallas.
“Whoever, it doesn’t matter, blocking the Cowboys will be a big challenge on all downs, but specifically their third-down package. They do a really good job up front creating problems both with their skill of their players but also the multiple looks that they create and the different ways you have to block them or treat their alignments,” Belichick concluded. “So no matter who’s in there, that will be challenging. However that goes between Shaq and Mike and Ted [Karras] and James [Ferentz] and David, it’ll be a challenge for whoever it is that’s facing them.”