FOXBORO — The New England Patriots may once again be without the services of the centerpiece of their much-maligned offensive line for the foreseeable future.
Center David Andrews reportedly suffered a “serious” thigh injury during the Pats’ 10-3 victory over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. The long-time team captain is expected to undergo tests on Monday to determine the severity of the injury.
However, the prevailing fear is that Andrews may be lost for the season.
After missing the past two games (including the Pats Week 8 win over the Jets) while recovering from a concussion, Andrews made his anticipated return for the Patriots on Sunday. However, his impact on the game would be short-lived.
As running back Rhamondre Stevenson attempted to earn the first down 2nd-and-8 from the Jets 28-yard line, Andrews (in his first game since suffering a concussion in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears) incurred a thigh injury while making a block. He immediately went to the ground in pain, and was soon helped to the sidelined by the training staff.
Shortly thereafter, he was assisted by team personnel to the locker room, unable to put weight on his leg.
If Andrews is indeed out for the remainder of 2022, it does not bode well for the Pats’ playoff aspirations. The effectiveness of both their running game and passing game dropped dramatically during his previous two-game absence.
According to Patriots.com, the team’s offensive efficiency plummeted from -0.03 expected points added (EPA) per play to -0.25 EPA per play. In the passing game, quarterback Mac Jones was pressured on 39.3% of his drop-backs without the Pats starting center, as opposed to only 28.2% with him in the lineup. Andrews’ absence also had a negative impact on the running game. The Pats averaged 4.7 yards per rush with Andrews, yet dropped to an average of 3.6 without him in Weeks 8 and 9.
On Sunday, the Jets aggressive defensive front took full advantage of the situation, making life even more difficult for Jones and the Patriots than they had in Week 8.
Collectively, New York kept the Pats quarterback under duress for nearly the entire afternoon, compiling six sacks, eight tackles-for-loss and eight quarterback hits.
While the decrease in New England’s statistical output without Andrews is clearly evident, the more significant loss may be be from his positional leadership. Rookie left guard Cole Strange has seen a decrease in his productivity without the Pats captain alongside him in the interior, His replacement, James Ferentz, has struggled to replicate Andrews’ blocking prowess. Though Ferentz would be the logical choice to assume the starting position in Andrews’ stead, the team did promote rookie center (and former practice-squadder) Kody Russey to the 53-man roster on Saturday.
In addition to Andrews’ injury, the Patriots will also be monitoring an foot injury to tackle Isaiah Wynn. The ex-Georgia Bulldog left the game in the second quarter and did not return. He was ruled out by the team shortly after the start of the second half.
While New England remains hopeful that the news on Wynn will be less grim, he is also expected to miss some time, pending results from testing to be done this week.
Wynn has struggled in 2022, seemingly unable to find comfort in his new role as the team’s primary right tackle. He entered Week 11 having allowed 16 pressures in eight games, while being flagged for a league-high nine penalties. Following his switch from the left side, Wynn has platooned with reserve linemen Marcus Cannon and Yodny Cajuste in six of his nine games-played, with Cajuste getting the start against the Jets at right tackle.
Surprisingly, Wynn actually took some practice snaps at left tackle earlier in the week, filling in for starter Trent Brown. In what coach Bill Belichick called a “coaching decision,” Wynn started on Sunday in Brown’s place at the left of the line. Ironically, Brown would be pressed back into duty when Wynn exited the game. Both he (left) and Cajuste (right) are the likely choices to align at New England’s tackle positions while Wynn recovers.
With little time to rest on their laurels, New England will soon travel to the northern Midwest, as they take on the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving night.
Barring unexpected good news, it appears that neither Andrews or Wynn will be among them.
Kickoff is set for Thursday at 8:20 p.m. from U.S. Bank Stadium.
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