The New England Patriots’ preparation for Week 1 ramped up Wednesday with the first official practice. With a huge matchup against the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on tap, New England can’t afford to operate at less than 100% on Sunday.
Unfortunately, it appears several members of the offensive line aren’t quite at full strength to begin the week.
Five Pats players were listed as limited on the team’s first injury report. Aside from wide receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Jack Jones, guard Cole Strange, OL Michael Owenwu and tackle Trent Brown all made the list as well.
Though Strange and Owenwu’s injuries aren’t anything new, it’s still disappointing to hear that they’re not fully participating at practice during a game week. Strange went down at the end of July with a knee injury, while Owenwu is recovering from offseason ankle surgery. The return date for either player is unknown, which could put this unit at a disadvantage to begin the year.
Meanwhile, Brown is dealing with an illness. ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggested it could’ve been a heat-related issue that kept the veteran partially out of practice, which is better news than something like the flu or food poisoning.
Still, the offensive line being hampered by a variety of ailments isn’t an encouraging sign before facing a heavyweight. This unit needs to perform to not only help Mac Jones back bounce in 2023, but also help new addition Ezkiel Elliott and returning stud Rhamondre Stevenson find plenty of success on the ground.
With Jones’ receiving corps being shuffled this offseason, the ground game will likely take even more prominence in the game plan in the early going. That facet of the offense won’t get going, however, if the front five isn’t playing at its best.
It could be a long day at the office for Jones and company facing the Eagles’ tenacious pass rush. Hopefully the OL can recover in time to provide some support on Sunday.
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