With Mac Jones named the starter and expected to be a "full go" on Sunday, the second-year quarterback will play without his starting center.
After landing in concussion protocol due to an illegal blindside block by Bears DT Mike Pennel, the Patriots ruled out starting center David Andrews for Sunday's game against the Jets. Andrews was back at the facility late in the week and is progressing but won't play. Along with Andrews, the Patriots also ruled out DL Christian Barmore (knee).
The following players are also listed as questionable for the Patriots on Sunday: WR Nelson Agholor (hamstring), S Kyle Dugger (ankle), LB Anfernee Jennings (calf), CB Jonathan Jones (ankle), S Adrian Phillips (shoulder), LB Josh Uche (hamstring), OT Isaiah Wynn (shoulder).
Replacing Andrews won't be easy for New England. The eight-year veteran is a team captain, is instrumental in pre-snap communication as the offensive line's primary signal caller, and is PFF's sixth-ranked center this season.
The Patriots will turn to veteran C/G James Ferentz to replace Andrews in the Meadowlands this weekend. Ferentz has bounced from the Pats practice squad to the active roster over the years but made the 53-man squad coming out of training this season.
Although he has big shoes to fill, Ferentz, the son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, takes on a leadership role on the Patriots sideline during games, so the Pats should be in good hands from an O-Line calls perspective before the snap. The 33-year-old has also improved his playing strength and ability to anchor against the bigger bodies in the interior.
Ferentz started two games for the Patriots last season at left guard against the Texans and Cowboys. In those two starts, the seventh-year pro allowed one quarterback hit and two hurries in 53 pass-blocking snaps. The last time Ferentz started games at center was in 2020.
As for backing up Ferentz, rookie Chasen Hines was snapping the football during practice on Wednesday, signaling he'd be in the mix there. The Patriots also have undrafted rookie Kody Russey on the practice squad, who is a full-time center, as a potential standard elevation this week. Russey has yet to be elevated from the practice squad this season.
Although he'll be without his starting center, quarterback Mac Jones is expected to get a boost with the return of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots run defense and pass rush struggled without second-year standout Christian Barmore last week, and Barmore will sit again this week. The Pats relied on run-stuffers Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Carl Davis against the run-first Bears, while the Jets are a more neutral team regarding run-pass frequency.
With the Jets featuring an outside-zone based system, Deatrich Wise's usage could increase as a base defensive end to give the Patriots a more penetrating presence. Even without rookie running back Breece Hall, New York's success on the ground in recent weeks will probably lead to another game plan oriented around stopping the run for Bill Belichick's defense.
Despite not practicing for two days this week, safety Kyle Dugger (ankle) has a chance to play after participating in a limited capacity on Friday. Dugger is officially questionable. If the playmaking safety can't play, veteran Jabrill Peppers should see an increased role on Sunday.
Lastly, for the Jets, head coach Robert Saleh ruled out wide receiver Corey Davis (knee) for Sunday's contest, while disgruntled wideout Elijah Moore is expected to play. Moore requested a trade out of New York last week. The only other players on the injury report for the Jets are OT Duane Brown and DE Jermaine Johnson, who are both questionable.
The Patriots will travel to New Jersey on Saturday and face the red-hot Jets at MetLife Stadium with kickoff at 1 pm ET on Sunday.