FOXBORO, Mass. — David Andrews was supposed to give the New England Patriots’ struggling offensive line a much-needed boost, but his return to the lineup was short-lived.
Andrews, who’d missed the previous two games with a concussion, played just 15 snaps in Sunday’s 10-3 win over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium before exiting with a thigh injury. The injury appeared serious in the moment — Andrews had to be slowly helped to the locker room by team trainers — and a postgame report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport indicated it could end the veteran center’s season.
That would be a massive loss for a New England offense that scored just two touchdowns over its last three games. Andrews’ backup, James Ferentz, didn’t sugarcoat its severity when speaking with NESN.com after the game.
“I’ve always said this about Dave: You lose someone like Dave, it’s not one guy filling in for Dave,” the 33-year-old Ferentz said. “It’s going to take all five of us. And that’s every day coming in the building. Dave sets the tempo even on the days we’re just meeting. Losing him would really hurt, but we’ve got a good room. I think everyone can do their part and carry the weight.”
Ferentz, a career reserve who’s been with the Patriots since 2017, likely will replace Andrews in the starting lineup moving forward, though the team also has undrafted rookie Kody Russey as a secondary center option. Russey was promoted from the practice squad last week. He started 60 games in college at Houston and Louisiana Tech but has yet to play a regular-season NFL snap.
Andrews’ injury wasn’t the only shot the Patriots’ O-line took Sunday. Isaiah Wynn, who’s played right tackle, left tackle and left guard this season, also left the game with a foot injury and reportedly is expected to miss time. If so, Trent Brown likely would slot back in at left tackle after his surprise benching against the Jets, with Yodny Cajuste — the only other tackle on New England’s 53-man roster — manning the right side. Brown replaced Wynn after beginning Sunday’s game on the sideline, and he struggled, allowing two of New York’s six sacks.
The lone tackle on the Patriots’ practice squad is Hunter Thedford, a recently converted tight end who signed last week. Veteran Marcus Cannon, who started at right tackle in Weeks 7 and 8, is on injured reserve and must sit out at least two more games.
Poor blocking has continually hamstrung the Patriots’ offense of late. Quarterback Mac Jones has taken four-plus sacks in a game four times in his young NFL career, and three of those instances came in the last three weeks. New England’s linemen also have struggled to clear holes in the run game and have been penalty-prone, with Ferentz and Cajuste both flagged for holding on Sunday.
“I think we’ve just got to start with doing our job,” Ferentz said when asked what needs to change for this group. “I know that’s the cliche line around here, but football’s this really weird spot where sometimes it’s simply just doing your job. Nothing more, nothing less. I think for us, that would be a really good starting point — getting to the right guys and then obviously finish. I talk about this a lot with my family: You go from peewee football to the NFL, it’s all the same. Go to the right guys, play harder, finish.”
This shorthanded unit won’t have much time to regroup. The Patriots, who have managed to win three straight despite their persistent issues up front, will be back in action Thursday when they visit the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving night.
“That recovery starts (Sunday night),” Ferentz said. “Normally where you might have a little bit more time to relax with your family, that’s a little more condensed. Probably get to bed at a reasonable hour on a Sunday, and then Monday morning, you’ve got to come in the building. It’s hard flipping the page within, what, 16 hours, but we’ve got to find a way to do that.”