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Patriots Place Wynn, Onwenu on COVID-19/Reserve: What It Means for the Pats’ Offensive Line

How will the Pats fill the potential void on the left side of their already-struggling offensive line?

Though the New England Patriots were able to take some positives away from their 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, one glaring area in which the team is in need of significant improvement has been their protection along the offensive line.

Heading into their Week Five matchup with the Houston Texans, the Pats may be without two of their top options at the position; potentially decimating the left side of their offensive line.

On Tuesday, the Patriots placed starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Michael Onwenu on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Under NFL protocols, vaccinated players who are asymptomatic may return after producing two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players who test positive are required to be isolated for a minimum of 10 days before producing two consecutive negative tests. While on the COVID -19/Reserve list, neither Wynn, nor Onwenu will count against the Patriots 53-man roster.

Despite their recent struggles, Wynn and Onwenu still anchor the left side of the Pats’ offensive line. With their playing status for Sunday firmly in doubt, the Pats will have to turn to their reserves to fill the void. The team has already experienced its share of difficulties on the right side since starting right tackle Trent Brown suffered a calf injury in Week One against the Miami Dolphins. Brown has been inactive due to injury from Weeks Two-Four. In Brown’s absence, the team has gone with a platoon of reserve tackles Justin Herron and Yasir Durant. The Pats have struggled in both run and pass protection, as a result.

If Brown returns to the lineup for Week Five, it is possible that either Durant or Herron could be fill-in options on the left side. However, as indicated on the Patriots unofficial depth chart, the likely options would be Ted Karras at left guard, and Yodny Cajuste at left tackle.

After one year with the Miami Dolphins, Ted Karras returned to the Patriots, signing a deal with the team in the offseason. He is an effective offensive lineman who can contribute at both guard spots as well as center. Karras is also quite durable. He started every game at center for the Patriots in 2019, when Andrews was sidelined for the season, recovering from blood clots in his lungs. Karras’ versatility and familiarity with the Patriots offensive system should put him in line to contribute. On Sunday, against the Buccaneers, Karras was subbed in for Onwenu, after the second year lineman was benched for his commission of two costly holding penalties. Karras performed well in the reserve role, playing in 46 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

After having been selected 101st overall by the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft, Yodny Cajuste was considered a potential draft steal for New England. However, injury had prevented the West Virginia product from seeing the football field at the pro level until this season. Cajuste has a wide frame, above-average initial quickness and good overall athletic ability. During his collegiate career, he was quick enough to get into position and strong enough to wall-off defenders in the running game. He has average length for a tackle, but was known to give up the edge at times. While he has been largely healthy, Cajuste has seen only limited snaps for the Patriots on special teams.

The team also employs offensive linemen Drake Jackson, James Ferentz, Alex Redmond and rookie Will Sherman on their practice squad. Should Wynn and Onwenu be unable to play on Sunday, it is likely that the Patriots would use at least one, if not both, elevations on offensive linemen for their Week Five matchup with Houston.