New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Jul 26, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots guard Cole Strange (69) makes his way to the practice fields for training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBORO — The New England Patriots’ beleaguered offensive line finally has a crucial piece back in action on the practice field.

The Pats held a light afternoon practice on the lower practice field by Gillette Stadium on Sunday, that was briefly delayed by rain passing over the area. Compared to a full training camp practice, there wasn’t a ton to glean from the session, which was closed to the public but open to the media.

But either way, it was huge for the team to get starting left guard Cole Strange back working with his teammates. Strange was both present at Sunday’s practice and participating in early positional and team drills, before rain swept through and Bill Belichick decided to take the team inside.

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Strange was initially injured during the Patriots’ fifth open practice of training camp on July 31. He worked with trainers on his left leg/knee area for the remainder of practice that day. The Boston Globe’s Christopher Price later reported that Strange’s injury is considered “not serious.”

The Patriots have since held eight more practices that they’ve opened to the media, Sunday’s being the 13th overall. Strange missed seven practices, but occasionally appeared during team drills as an observer, and was also spotted talking with Belichick the day after he was hurt. So, his injury hasn’t appeared serious throughout the process.

In Strange’s place, rookie guard Atonio Mafi has stepped in at left guard, and also shifted to right guard with Kody Russey sliding in on the left side. It’s been a necessary shuffle, as not only has Strange been out for about two weeks, but incumbent starting right guard Mike Onwenu has been absent throughout the spring and summer as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery.

  • Filling In

    Strange ultimately did not participate in team drills after practiced resumed around 5 p.m. on Sunday. So, he can be considered a limited participant overall. But it was a good sign to see him partake in drills with his fellow guards.

    In the meantime, Mafi remains in the lead as the Next Man Up™ at left guard. He continued to rep with Mac Jones and the starters during 11-on-11. An interesting twist at right guard, though: Reiff was tried out at that spot on Sunday, the first time we’ve seen him on the interior.

    Russey, who had been repping at RG before getting injured during last Thursday’s preseason opener, was absent, which appears to have led to Belichick’s decision to try Reiff at that spot. Chasen Hines and James Ferentz practiced as the backup left and right guards on Sunday.

  • Tackle Shuffle

    Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots guard Sidy Sow (61) blocks Houston Texans defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (51) away from quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots tackle Sidy Sow (61) blocks Houston Texans defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (51) away from quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

    The problems still don’t stop there on the Pats’ offensive line. In fact, tackle remains the biggest concern. Left tackle Trent Brown has had a slow start to camp, mostly participating in a limited capacity for unclear reasons. Recently, Brown has been starting to participate more in team drills, including Sunday.

    But the more glaring, persistent issue for the Patriots has come on the other end at right tackle. Camp started with Riley Reiff in that spot, but Conor McDermott soon supplanted him.

    Now, rookie Sidy Sow appears to be getting a shot. Sow repped with the 1’s at right tackle during 11-on-11 at Sunday’s practice, while McDermott practiced with the 2’s. Sow mainly played left guard at Eastern Michigan, but he had converted from tackle and played both the left and right side in college.

  • The Patriots will practice one more time in Foxboro on Monday, before traveling to Green Bay on Tuesday, as they gear up for joint practices with the Packers and preseason action on Saturday night.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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