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New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Justin Herron #75 of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Patriots were missing four of their five starting offensive linemen for the third practice in a row. Trent Brown (calf) and Shaq Mason (abdomen) are both dealing with injuries, while Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu remain on COVID-IR.

Brown and Mason have already been ruled out, according to Friday’s injury report. There’s been no update on Wynn or Onwenu, but it is rare for players to miss all three days of practice then play on Sunday.

Likely without their starters at both the tackle and guard spots, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and the Patriots have some tough decisions to make about what Sunday’s offensive line will look like. Here are their options, broken up by position. Keep in mind, the Patriots can elevate up to two players from their practice squad, so all four current practice squad linemen are included here. Not only will the Patriots need to field a starting five along the offensive line, but have backups ready as well.

  • Tackle

    Justin Herron: Herron is the Patriots’ most experienced remaining offensive tackle with 16 career games under his belt, including two starts at right tackle this season. While keeping him at right tackle makes the most sense continuity-wise, he’s also probably their most trusted tackle, and could be called on to protect Mac Jones’ blind side.

    Yasir Durant: Acquired in a trade at the end of training camp, Durant has seemingly picked up the Patriots’ offense and earned the coaching staff’s trust quickly. He started the Week 2 game against the Jets, and in total has played 30 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Like Herron, he’s a true swing tackle and could play on either the left or right side if needed.

    Yodny Cajuste: Healthy for the first time in this three-year NFL career, Cajuste made a strong push for a roster spot at the end of training camp. Despite what he showed in August, he’s yet to play an offensive snap this season. There may be a reason the Patriots are hesitant to put him in a game, but the circumstances this week may have to outweigh whatever that concern is.

    William Sherman (practice squad): The Patriots drafted Sherman in the sixth-round this past spring. While he offers some upside in the long-term, he didn’t quite look ready for NFL football this summer.

  • Guard

    Ted Karras: Karras is as good of a backup lineman as you’ll find in the NFL, and in reality is a starting caliber player. Perhaps the most certain of any spot on the line heading into this week is Karras at left guard, where he filled in against Tampa after Onwenu left the game early.

    Yasir Durant: Durant’s lone NFL start came last year in Kansas City, when he played right guard for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17. The Patriots may need him more at tackle, but exploring any and all versatility options is key right now.

    James Ferentz (practice squad): Ferentz is mainly a center, but has played guard in the NFL before. He’s also the Patriots’ most-experienced practice squad lineman, having been with the team since 2017, having played 24 games with four starts in that span. He was the first lineman recalled from the practice squad last season, and this year figures to be the same way. He’s the most logical choice to be the starting right guard.

    Alex Redmond (practice squad): Playing for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2016 to 2020 Redmond made 24 starts, mostly at right guard. Like Ferentz, he offers a more veteran option, although he’s likely not as familiar with the Patriots’ system specifically. He and Ferentz have likely been competing for the starting right guard spot in practice this week.

    Drake Jackson (practice squad): The Patriots signed Jackson to the practice squad in late September. The rookie missed practice on Thursday, so his odds of playing seem low.

    William Sherman (practice squad): Like Durant, Sherman offers four-position versatility. But again, he’s a raw prospect and just started working at guard in the spring after playing tackle in college.

  • Most likely combinations

    Working across from left tackle to right tackle, here are some offensive line combinations we may see on Sunday…

     Herron-Karras-Andrews-Ferenz-Durant

    This would seemingly be the group the Patriots coaching staff trusts the most. Herron, Andrews, and Durant have all played considerable roles to this point this season, while Karras and Ferentz have been with the team in the past.

    Cajuste-Karras-Andrews-Ferentz-Herron

    While the pervious option is likely the most trusted group, this would be the Patriots’ five best available offensive linemen, across the board. However, Cajsute does present an unknown as he hasn’t played all year.

    Herron-Karras-Andrews-Redmond-Durant

    If the Patriots decide they want to put Mac Jones’ health first, and run the ball as much as possible, Redmond may prove to be a better option at guard than Ferentz.

    Cajuste-Karras-Andrews-Durant-Herron

    If the Patriots really want to sell all out on the run, they could move Durant inside. This is the biggest reasonable combination they could put together.

    Herron-Ferentz-Andrews-Redmond-Karras

    Earlier this week, Karras was asked if he’d ever played tackle. He replied by noting he hasn’t since his senior year of high school, but is up for whatever the team needs him to do. If the Patriots do want to kick him outside, it gives them their most experienced look by putting Ferentz and Redmond both in the game. It’s not the most ideal combination, but nothing about this situation is ideal.