The Patriots flew to Arizona Friday afternoon to get prepared for Sunday night’s season opener against the Cardinals.
Unfortunately, a trio of would-be offensive starters didn’t make the trip to the desert with the rest of the New England squad according to the Providence Journal.
Later in the evening the Patriots officially ruled tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), left tackle Nate Solder (hamstring) and guard Jonathan Cooper (foot) as Out for the opener.
All three players had originally been listed as Questionable on New England’s Friday injury report.
Gronkowski has been dealing with the hamstring issue since pulling up lame in joint practice work early in August against the Bears. Despite erroneous reports by Pro Football Talk and the Boston Herald dealing with the All-Pro tight end’s status, the latter saying he was expected to play, Gronkowski will miss the season opener for the first time since 2013.
Solder limped off with a left hamstring injury in the first half of the preseason finale in New York, while Cooper has been dealing with a foot injury since the third day of training camp. Cooper missed pretty much all summer due to the injury. Both players were originally listed as Questionable for the game before being downgraded.
With Gronkowski out, offseason trade addition Martellus Bennett – who had a lackluster preseason – could be leaned on by Jimmy Garoppolo and the New England offense to pick up the slack.
With Sebastian Vollmer on PUP to open the season, New England has limited option at the tackle position to open the year. In Solder’s absence there are only three healthy tackles. Marcus Cannon has been holding down right tackle spot, meaning either LaAdrian Waddle or Cameron Fleming could be asked to fill the blind-side slot against a blitz-happy Cardinals defense. The more experienced Cannon could also flip to the left side.
New England also has limited depth on the inside after releasing Josh Kline earlier in the week. Joe Thuney is expected to make his rookie debut at left guard with David Andrew next to him at center. That would seem to leave Shaq Mason, who’s been dealing with hand injury, or sixth-round rookie Ted Karras to fill the void at right guard. Off course it’s worth noting that Thuney was an All-ACC left tackle last year at N.C. State.
The team does have veteran Chris Barker on the practice squad, but he reportedly was not asked to make the trip to Arizona as a potential call-up.
A New England offense line that was the story in the team’s AFC title loss last January in Denver is already dealing with plenty of adversity and a lack of depth as the unit tries to make positive strides and help Garoppolo guide the Patriots through the first month of the season.