FOXBORO — It’s anyone’s guess what the Patriots’ offensive line will look like Sunday night against the Dolphins. Players in the locker room Friday said even they didn’t know who would be starting.
The Patriots listed left tackle Trent Brown (concussion), left guard Cole Strange (knee), right guard Mike Onwenu (ankle) and rookie Sidy Sow (concussion) as questionable heading into Sunday night’s matchup with the Dolphins, though center David Andrews (hamstring) was removed from the injury report and should be good to start in Week 2.
Brown and Sow, who started Week 1 at right guard, still had not been cleared from concussion protocol as of Friday and didn’t practice all week. Those two injuries put even more importance on getting Onwenu and Strange back from injuries.
Strange and Onwenu both missed the Patriots’ Week 1 loss to the Eagles. Strange suffered a knee injury on the Patriots’ first padded practice of training camp. He’s been limited in practice now for two straight weeks. Onwenu began training camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing ankle surgery this offseason. He’s also been limited in practice for two straight weeks.
It seems unlikely Brown and Sow would be ready for Sunday after not practicing all week, but they have not been officially ruled out.
The Patriots started rookie Atonio Mafi at left guard in Strange’s place last week.
David Andrews, Mafi, offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, rookie center/guard Jake Andrews, offensive tackle Vederian Lowe and offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr., are the only fully healthy offensive linemen on the Patriots’ 53-man roster. The Patriots also have center/guard James Ferentz, center/guard Kody Russey and offensive tackle Andrew Stueber on their practice squad. Veteran offensive lineman Riley Reiff will miss at least three more games on injured reserve.
Anderson started at right tackle in Week 1. The Patriots could move him over to left tackle if Brown can’t play, but they might prefer to keep him on the right side since that appears to be his long-term role for now.
“When I came here, I told (offensive line coach Adrian Klemm) and all of them, I can play both at any moment,” Anderson said Friday in the locker room.
Lowe or Wheatley will almost certainly fill the other tackle spot if Brown and Sow can’t play. Belichick said both can play left and right tackle.
“They’ve both been good. I’m glad we have them,” Belichick said. “They’re good to work with and they’re getting better, so it’s good. I’m glad we have them.”
Wheatley said he’s played right tackle and swing tackle and that he’s trying to make the most of wherever they put him.
“He works hard, has a good skill, works hard and learning,” Belichick said Friday. “He’s a young player, developing player but he’s getting better.”
Wheatley did say he got more time on the practice field this week, which was valuable since he and Lowe were both acquired via trade late last month. He said he’d be comfortable if he was forced into action this week.
“It’s a good group of guys. Good coaches. I think we’ll be all right,” he said.
If Strange and Onwenu can play, then the Patriots are set at guard. If only one can play, then Mafi will fill the other spot. If neither can play, then it will be Mafi plus Jake Andrews, Russey or Ferentz at guard.
The number of practice squad elevations the Patriots make will be a tell about their injury situation. Teams get an extra gameday active roster spot if they dress eight offensive linemen. The Patriots currently have 10 available offensive linemen on their 53-man roster, but four are listed as questionable. If they elevate or sign offensive linemen from the practice squad, that means they have uncertainty about whether three or more of their injured players can suit up.
But as of now, the only known starters on the Patriots’ offensive line for Sunday night are Anderson and David Andrews.