The strength of the Patriots offense this season has been their rushing attack, led by a proven trio of interior offensive linemen in David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. With Isaiah Wynn in his third season and Michael Onwenu quickly becoming a new versatile addition, the starting five will look to power the Pats to a win on Monday night against the Jets.
"As an offensive line, we're all sticking together, we're all working still," said Thuney of their mindset as the team endures a four-game losing streak. "It's a long season, it's not like anything has been decided yet or anything. We're still fighting, we're still working and sticking together. That's all we know how to do."
Onwenu has been a valuable addition. With Jermaine Eluemunor ending up on Injured Reserve, the rookie out of Michigan has stepped into the lineup at three different positions before settling in at right tackle the last two weeks.
"Kudos to him, shuffling between guard and tackle so frequently, digging into the playbook, understanding our offense," said Thuney of the rookie 6th-rounder. "Yeah, he's a really strong guy, he's physical and he plays really hard. Great addition to the room."
Onwenu and Mason had some impressive double team blocks in recent weeks, as the line continues to build chemistry.
"Chemistry is definitely very important, just getting the continuity going and flowing," said Mason. "Just building that camaraderie with all the guys."
Getting the run game going against Gregg Williams' versatile front will be a huge key for the offensive line. Opening up holes for the backs like Rex Burkhead could put the winless Jets on their heels early.
"Yeah, very physical," said Burkhead of the Jets defensive front. "Definitely have some size up front for sure. They could be multiple as well.
"They can get penetration in the backfield very quickly and we're gonna have to be on top of them from the get-go, start fast, play physical to control that and I think that's where we will have success if we can do that."
Thuney agreed with Burkhead's assessment.
"They're a physical defense, they're strong, they're powerful, they have a lot of speed too, though," said Thuney. "They play hard and they play well together. It's going to be a really challenging front and it's going to take all of us for 60 minutes."
The Patriots were only missing N'Keal Harry (concussion) and J.J. Taylor (illness) at Saturday's final practice before Monday night's tilt against the Jets. Both were absent all week and are unlikely to play. Fortunately, Isaiah Wynn was present after being a late addition to Friday's practice report as DNP.
Missing just two players would usually be a pretty good thing, but the Patriots still have an extensive injury list and some real uncertainty as to who will be healthy enough to go, especially at the tight end position where both Ryan Izzo and Dalton Keene have been limited all week.
If Lawrence Guy and Carl Davis are able to go, it will be a big boost for the defensive front, who will now reportedly face Joe Flacco with Sam Darnold being downgraded to Doubftul on Saturday.
Webex Quotes of Note
Nick Thurman on moving up from the practice squad:
"The mantra about the league is just 'next man up.' I just always kept my mind on that. Whatever they put in front of me I attacked it and moved on. If they need me to play, just trying to be ready for the moment.
"I feel like once we get out there it's the same as playing your first varsity game, your first college game, at least that's what I took it as. The more that they called on me to step up and play for them, just trying to get a feel, trying to get a rhythm out there."
Shaq Mason on pulling as a guard:
"I love it, personally. I love pulling. Georgia Tech o-line, it's in my wheelhouse. I definitely love when those types of plays are called out."
Byron Cowart on the opportunity to see quality playing time in his second season:
"For me, it gives me confidence to know that my teammates and my coaches they believe in me and they know that I can go out there and do what I need to do to help the team. So it's definitely a confidence booster. I mean it's the NFL, it's my dream but to me it's like I got to keep going. Obviously we're not where we want to be as a team. I'm always trying to find ways to help the team, I was trying to find to ways to get better, to be that guy."