If you find yourself scratching your head and wondering who is blocking in front of Mac Jones on Sunday against the Texans, you're not alone. The Patriots offensive line has gone through the ringer this week and will now need to replace four of its five starting linemen for their Week 5 matchup in Houston. Center David Andrews will be the only remaining Week 1 starter that is healthy enough to suit up for New England, while left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Mike Onwenu, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Trent Brown are all sidelined.
For Wynn and Onwenu, they were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list at the beginning of the week and were not activated prior to the club making the trip down to Houston, meaning the earliest we could see those two back is next week against Dallas. As for Mason (abdomen) and Brown (calf), they did not practice at all this week and were ruled out on Friday due to injury.
In Brown's case, he's been sidelined for the bulk of the season, only playing seven snaps in the opener against Miami before departing due to that calf ailment. On Saturday, New England placed Brown on injured reserve which will force him out for at least the next three weeks, further putting a dent on his season.
What was once considered arguably the Patriots biggest strength on the offensive side of the ball is now scrambling to find bodies to block for their rookie quarterback.
The team elevated James Ferentz, Alex Redmond and Will Sherman to the active roster leading up to Week 5 and those three will now figure into the O-line rotation in some capacity. Tackle Justin Herron and guard Ted Karras are likely to claim two of the starting jobs available along the line, while Bill Belichick will then look to Yasir Durant, Yodny Cajuste, Ferentz, Redmond and Sherman to fill out the rest of the depth chart.
So far this season, Herron and Durant have filled in for Brown at right tackle and the results haven't been stellar as each has been benched at one point. Herron leads the team in pressures allowed (13) through the first month while Durant has allowed three sacks.
When you add these injuries to the starters and poor play from their replacements when given an opportunity, what was previously looked at as a relatively soft landing spot in the Texans following a hectic Week 4 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers is now very much in jeopardy with New England possibly facing a 1-4 record.
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The post-Gilmore era
The stunner of the week was the Patriots trading star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers after the two sides failed to come together on a new contract. While you can argue whether or not the compensation -- a future sixth-round pick -- was sufficient for a player of Gilmore's caliber, the Patriots did seem to misjudge their position with the player dating back for some time.
Gilmore's desire for a new contract that financially brought him among his peers across the league have been bubbling for the past few years. Last season, the team did move money from 2021 to 2020 to sweeten Gilmore's contract for that year, but that was the Patriots simply kicking the can down the road. If they had known at the time that they didn't want to extend Gilmore beyond what they were already woking under, it would have made more sense for Bill Belichick -- who famously ships players out a year too early than a year too late -- to move Gilmore prior to 2020. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but New England did seem to misplay this asset for the past few years.
As for what's next, all eyes are on J.C. Jackson, who will continue to be looked at as the team's No. 1 corner. Through the first month, Jackson has played well, totaling two interceptions and allowing just a 54.5 passer rating against, according to PFF.
And if there's anything that the Patriots can learn from their situation with Gilmore, it could be to figure out a long-term solution with the 25-year-old, who is playing on a one-year deal this season.
Need for speed?
Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison pointed out one of the underrated flaws on the Patriots defense, specifically at the linebacker position: a lack of speed.
"You're spot on. It doesn't seem like they're slow, and I love those guys and have so much respect for those guys, but yeah, they are slow," Harrison told WEEI's "Merloni & Fauria" on Thursday. "When you start watching LaVonte David, you start watching Devin White move and blitz and move from sideline to sideline, it's night and day difference.
"And that was the thing that really stood out to me. I'm like, 'Look how fast and athletic Tampa Bay linebackers look.' And the Patriots linebackers, the defense just looks slow. It's always kind of looked like that, and it starts with those backers, man. Those guys have experience and things like that, but that's something the Patriots definitely need to upgrade a little bit moving forward. That's speed."
"I don't think it's anything that — it didn't move me any when they said they were signing Jamie Collins," he said. "Maybe [Bill] Belichick can get that fire back in him and he's probably the only coach that knows how to really utilize him. I don't know, man. This might be it for Jamie. He needs to show that he can still play, that he still wants to play."
Belichick vs. rookie QBs
It'll be another week where Bill Belichick squares up against a rookie quarterback as the Texans will start Davis Mills in their Week 5 matchup on Sunday. The head coach is 22-6 against first-year quarterbacks and his defenses have also allowed just 9.5 points per game in their last six games against first-year signal callers (Zach Wilson, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allen were the six QBs).
Brian Belichick acknowledges Steve's viral moment
Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick went viral during New England's Sunday Night Football matchup with the Buccaneers last week for his odd facial expressions that were captured by NBC cameras. On Tuesday, Brian Belichick, Steve's brother and Patriots safeties coach, did say that he enjoyed the memes that came from his different faces.
"I wouldn't say it's normal," he said, via WEEI.com. "I wouldn't read too much into it. He's focused. Locked in. Probably wasn't even thinking about what he was doing. I thought he did a great job Sunday. But, I did get a kick out of some of the memes, and stuff."