The New England Patriots’ underperforming offensive line could be shorthanded for this week’s matchup with the Houston Texans.
The Patriots on Tuesday played two O-line starters — left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu — on the reserve/COVID-19 list, according to the NFL transaction wire.
NFL protocols allow asymptomatic, vaccinated players to return from the COVID list after they return two negative tests separated by 24 hours. Players who are vaccinated and symptomatic must do the same and be symptom-free for 48 yards. Unvaccinated players must remain away from the team for at least 10 days.
It’s unclear whether Wynn and/or Onwenu are vaccinated.
If they are not cleared by Sunday, the Patriots would need to replace the entire left half of their O-line.
Ted Karras likely would step in for Onwenu at left guard. Onwenu was benched for Karras in the second half of Sunday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the former was penalized twice for holding.
Justin Herron, Yasir Durant and Yodny Cajuste would be the top options to replace Wynn. Herron and Durant have split time at right tackle this season with preferred starter Trent Brown sidelined with a calf injury, and both have been inconsistent. Cajuste, a 2019 third-round draft pick, has yet to play an offensive snap in his NFL career.
The Patriots also could shift Brown to left tackle, where he started every game during New England’s 2018 championship season.
It’s unclear, though, whether Brown, who has practiced in a limited capacity for the last two-plus weeks, will be healthy enough to play against Houston. If not, the Patriots could be starting backups at three of the five O-line positions.
Expected to be a strength of the team, New England’s line has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking this season. In Sunday’s loss to the Bucs, the Patriots allowed four sacks and 12 quarterback hits and rushed for -1 yards on eight carries.