FOXBORO — The Patriots were worn down at the line of scrimmage against the Broncos last weekend. But reinforcements are on the way for both the offensive and defensive lines for Bill Belichick's club, if Wednesday's practice is any indication.
Starting center David Andrews? Back on the field after a four-week stay on injured reserve due to a hand injury.
Starting guard Shaq Mason? At practice after landing on the COVID reserve list last week.
Starting defensive tackle Byron Cowart? Ready to go, seemingly, after landing on COVID reserve following a Week 4 loss to the Chiefs.
Free-agent acquisition Beau Allen, presumed this offseason to be a starting defensive tackle? On the practice field for the first time since members of the media were eligible to attend training camp practices.
Recent defensive tackle signee Carl Davis? In uniform and present at practice for the first time as a member of the Patriots.
Outside linebacker Derek Rivers, another player who landed on COVID reserve last week? Rookie Josh Uche, on IR since Week 2? Both on the field and bolstering the front-seven depth for the Patriots defense.
Not a bad haul for a defense that allowed more than 5.0 yards per carry in the first half of Sunday's loss to Denver. Not a bad haul for an offense that utilized an offensive line combination of players who'd never practiced together, Belichick told the CBS broadcast team at halftime of the Broncos game.
It was not a perfect-attendance day at Patriots practice, however. James White was missing, as were Jermaine Eluemunor and James Ferentz. Eluemunor had to leave Sunday's game with an ankle injury. Ferentz landed on COVID reserve last week.
The most critical returnee for the Patriots? Had to be Andrews, who could play as soon as this weekend against the Niners. (The new IR rules in place this season permit players who've missed three games to return.) When Andrews is healthy and working at center, that allows Joe Thuney to take his normal spot at left guard. And with Mason now available at right guard, the interior of the offensive line -- one of the team's greatest strengths -- is intact.
The offensive line against the Niners in Week 7 could very well look the way it did to open the season with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Thuney at left guard, Andrews at center and Mason at right guard.
If Eluemunor has to miss the game, sixth-round rookies Mike Onwenu and Justin Herron would be the top candidates to fill in. Onwenu has been one of the league's top-performing rookies this season, regardless of position, according to Pro Football Focus. "Big Mike," as the 350-pounder was called at Michigan, has played jumbo tight end, left guard, right guard and right tackle this season.