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Inactive Analysis: Patriots Guards Cole Strange, Mike Onwenu to Make Season Debuts vs. Dolphins 

The Patriots will get their starting guard tandem back for Sunday Night Football vs. the Dolphins.


The Patriots interior offensive line is getting a significant boost as starters Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu are officially active for Sunday Night Football vs. the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

Although it's mostly good news for the Patriots on the injury front, New England will be without starting left tackle Trent Brown (concussion) and Tyreek Hill stopper CB Jonathan Jones (ankle). The Pats other inactives for Sunday night's contest are as follows: OL Sidy Sow (concussion), Ameer Speed, Anfernee Jennings, Kayshon Boutte, and Sam Roberts. Patriots veteran WR DeVante Parker is also active for the first time this season.

After being held out last week, Onwenu (ankle) and Strange (knee) were questionable, along with four others heading into the weekend. With four offensive linemen on the injury report, it was a good sign that the Patriots starting guard tandem would suit up for Sunday night's game when New England didn't promote any offensive linemen from the practice squad on Saturday. Instead, the Pats promoted LB Calvin Munson and WR Jalen Reagor, suggesting that at least two of New England's four questionable offensive linemen would play on Sunday.

Onwenu is making his season debut after reportedly undergoing offseason ankle surgery. The people-moving right guard spent the majority of training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He began practicing Aug. 23 but was held out of the regular-season opener in an abundance of caution. Last season, Onwenu had the fourth-highest overall grade via Pro Football Focus among guards (79.3). Along with being a tone-setting run blocker, Onwenu allowed only one sack on 596 pass-blocking snaps in 2022.

As for Strange, it was an up-and-down rookie campaign for the surprise first-rounder out of UT Chattanooga. Then, Strange suffered a knee injury just minutes into the first padded practice of training camp that caused him to miss most of the summer. It wasn't always smooth sailing for Strange as a rookie, but the Pats left guard did finish strong down the stretch. The second-year guard allowed one quarterback pressure and zero sacks in the final two weeks of the 2022 season.

Overall, the Patriots offense will benefit greatly from having their two starters back on the interior. Last week, albeit in their first-ever NFL games, rookie Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow combined to allow a sack and 12 pressures in the loss to the Eagles while also struggling to run block, with the Pats gaining just 17 rushing yards on 13 attempts between the guards in the opener.

Although returning their interior offensive line to normal is a positive step, the Patriots O-Line will have to handle Miami's edge pressure without starting left tackle Trent Brown. Brown missed all three practices this week with a concussion, making it unlikely that he'd play this week.

Without Brown, the Patriots starting offensive line could look like this: LT Calvin Anderson/Vederian Lowe, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Calvin Anderson/Vederian Lowe. If the Patriots best interior O-Line on paper can provide good depth to the pocket for quarterback Mac Jones, Jones should be able to help control the Dolphins edge pressure as he did last week.

Moving outside the formation to the wide receivers, the Patriots get another boost with the return of WR DeVante Parker. Parker missed the opener with a knee injury, and his absence definitely had a negative impact. Without Parker, rookie Kayshon Boutte filled in for the veteran at the "X" receiver spot. Boutte could not keep his feet in bounds on two critical targets, and Jones didn't seem to fully trust the rookie on a third when Mac sailed a throw out of bounds rather than targeting an open Boutte late in the fourth quarter.

Boutte also popped up on the injury report with a hamstring issue during the week. The sixth-rounder was removed and didn't carry a game designation but was limited in practice. As a result, Boutte is inactive this week, with Parker and practice-squad elevation Jalen Reagor officially active. Reagor can stretch the field on vertical routes, win foot races on crossers, and carry the football on designed touches. The former first-rounder had issues with route running and focus drops, but he can clear out coverage and positively impact the game with his explosiveness.

Lastly, on the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots will need to limit Miami's prolific wide receiver tandem without their Tyreek Hill stopper, Jonathan Jones. Jones was a mid-week addition to the injury report with an ankle injury and has held Hill in check over the last five matchups with the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Initially, the Pats game plan defensively probably won't change until Hill starts giving them problems. The best guess here is that the Patriots will maintain a speed-on-speed matchup with corner/punt returner Marcus Jones on Hill with safety help. New England hasn't significantly double-teamed Hill in recent years, opting to trust the veteran Jones with post-safety help in man coverage situations. But that might change now that the second-year CB is drawing the matchup against the explosive wideout. While projecting that Marcus Jones will take Hill, rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez will likely draw Jaylen Waddle in coverage.

As for Miami, two key contributors were game-time decisions for the Dolphins in starting left tackle Terron Armstead and edge rusher Jaelen Phillips. The Pats catch a break in that both are inactive, which is especially big in Phillips's case with the Pats on a backup left tackle.

The Patriots will host the division-rival Dolphins on a beautiful Sunday night at Gillette Stadium with kickoff at 8:20 p.m. ET.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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