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Patriots training camp preview: How quickly will the new-look offensive line start to gel?

Related: Patriots training camp preview: Will there be more two-tight end groupings?

NFL: JUL 31 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2022 training camp is right around the corner. On Wednesday, the team will reconvene at Gillette Stadium to kick off its next level of preparation for the upcoming season — and all that goes with it: full-contact practices, camp competitions, joint sessions, you name it.

Leading up to this year’s camp, we will take a look at all position groups on New England’s roster to give you some idea about the key actors, battles and storylines at each of them. Today, we will continue along the offensive line.

Position group

Even though it struggled with injury at times, the Patriots overall had one of the better offensive lines in football last year. However, the unit saw some changes this offseason with starting guards Ted Karras and Shaq Mason both leaving the team. Their replacements have seemingly already been found — more on that in a second — with the group as a whole currently 16 players deep:

Offensive tackles

  • Isaiah Wynn: 26 | signed through 2022
  • Trent Brown: 29 | signed through 2023
  • Justin Herron: 26 | signed through 2023
  • Yodny Cajuste: 26 | signed through 2022
  • Andrew Stueber: 23 | signed through 2025 | Roster breakdown

Interior offensive linemen

  • Cole Strange: 23 | signed through 2025
  • David Andrews: 30 | signed through 2024
  • Michael Onwenu: 24 | signed through 2023
  • James Ferentz: 33 | signed through 2022
  • William Sherman: 23 | signed through 2022
  • Chasen Hines: 22 | signed through 2025
  • Yasir Durant: 24 | signed through 2022
  • Arlington Hambright: 26 | signed through 2022
  • Darryl Williams: 25 | signed through 2022
  • Drew Desjarlais: 25 | signed through 2024
  • Kody Russey: 24 | signed through 2024

Before getting into the details a quick reminder that the distinction between tackles and interior linemen is not a firm one. Players such as Andrew Stueber, William Sherman and Yasir Durant have seen extensive action at both tackle and guard throughout their careers, for example, and therefore offer depth outside their “primary” positions identified for our purposes.

Leaving the world of semantics behind, we can say that the starting five already appear to be in place: from left to right the group is projected to consist of Isaiah Wynn, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu and Trent Brown, with the two tackles — Wynn and Brown — possibly changing positions. They did just that during mandatory minicamp, even though that was a change compared to their usage throughout the 2021 season.

As for the backup spots behind them, the Patriots have a mix of experience and youth. James Ferentz, Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste have been in the system a few years each, whereas the others only recently entered the league and/or arrived in New England. Realistically, the team will keep no more than five of those backups on the 53-man roster.

Camp competitions

Justin Herron vs. Yodny Cajuste vs. Andrew Stueber: Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown are the starters, but the spots behind them are up for grabs. Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron served as the backups on the left and right side, respectively, during minicamp but there is no guarantee that both will make the team. Stueber, meanwhile, remains on the non-football injury list and could be headed towards a redshirt campaign. Of course, the guard/tackle hybrids on the roster might also have a word to say about the composition of the group:

William Sherman vs. Andrew Stueber vs. Yasir Durant: All three of the players listed here have the ability and experience to play on the inside and the outside. Accordingly, they might have an impact on both groups. It is possible the Patriots keep one of them around for more roster flexibility; leaving aside the apparently injured Stueber, Sherman would be the favorite based on upside and Durant based on experience.

James Ferentz vs. Chasen Hines vs. Arlington Hambright vs. Drew Desjarlais vs. Darryl Williams vs. Kody Russey: New England has plenty of “pure” interior linemen currently under contract, but no more than three of them will make the 53-man team — if even that. Ferentz and Hines are probably the favorites at the moment: the former has plenty of experience at both center and guard, while the latter was just drafted as a sixth-round pick.

Stories to watch

How quickly will the new-look line start to gel? The Patriots’ O-line underwent some changes this offseason. Not only did the unit lose its starting guards from a year ago, as mentioned above, position coach Carmen Bricillo also left and was replaced by Matt Patricia. Naturally, there will be a transformation process with Patricia leading the unit and with Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu sliding into starting spots (and tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown possibly changing spots).

Where will Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown line up? Speaking of Wynn and Brown, them changing positions in the starting lineup raised some eyebrows this offseason. The first few practices of training camp will already give us an indication whether or not the move is a permanent one or if it was just a temporary arrangement.

When will David Andrews and company come off the injury lists? The Patriots placed three of their O-linemen on either the physically unable to perform or the non-football injury list this week. Starting center David Andrews is on PUP, with rookies Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber on NFI. The sooner they will come off, the better — especially in Andrews’ case: he needs to build chemistry with the new guards surrounding him, and continue to grow his relationship with quarterback Mac Jones.

Will there be more outside zone? The draft selections of Cole Strange and running back Pierre Strong Jr. are indications that the Patriots might be looking to make some schematic changes in the aftermath of long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ departure. There is a belief that New England might be starting to incorporate more outside zone blocking, based on those two picks: both Strange and Strong Jr. have had plenty of success in an outside-zone based attack.