The Patriots’ depth on the offensive line took another hit on Monday evening.
New England announced a series of roster moves, with the team placing veteran offensive lineman Riley Reiff on injured reserve. Reiff, who suffered a lower-body injury during New England’s preseason finale against the Titans on Aug. 25, will now miss at least the first four games of the 2023 regular season.
In corresponding moves, the Patriots signed tight end Pharaoh Brown off the practice squad and added him to the 53-man roster, and then replaced Brown on the practice squad by signing defensive tackle Jeremiah Pharms.
Reiff’s absence further complicates a Patriots’ offensive line with plenty of question marks, especially at right tackle.
New England handed Reiff a one-year, $5 million contract (second-highest-paid tackle on the roster) this offseason, with the 34-year-old projected as one of the team’s starting tackles alongside Trent Brown going into training camp.
But Reiff didn’t stand out during reps at RT both during competitive drills and in preseason action, prompting New England to move him to right guard.
Reiff held his own at the position during the Patriots’ preseason game against the Packers. According to Pro Football Focus’ Louie Benjamin, Reiff logged 31 snaps against the Packers and did not surrender a pressure or get beat.
Even though the Patriots signed Reiff with the expectation of him slotting in at tackle, his stout play at RG opened several contingency plans for the Patriots, such as Reiff staying in the interior and Mike Onwenu shifting over to right tackle.
There were hints that Reiff was going to miss some extended time, as New England went out and traded for tackles Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Vederian Lowe just two days after the game against Tennessee.
Still, with Reiff out of the equation, the Patriots are still searching for a surefire solution at right tackle. Both Wheatley Jr. and Lowe have upside, but need time to acclimate to New England’s system, while rookie Sidy Sow has gone through plenty of growing pains since making the switch over to tackle during preseason play.
Fellow veteran Calvin Anderson impressed during spring sessions at tackle, but then missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a non-football illness. Anderson has since been activated and made the 53-man roster, but he’ll need to get back up to speed quickly if he wants to line up at right tackle this Sunday against the Eagles.
“It’s been limited obviously, but it’s good to have Calvin back out there,” Bill Belichick said Monday of Anderson’s status. “It’s similar to what we saw from him in the spring and at Denver. He’s flexible, position flexibility to play both tackles. He’s a young player but he’s experienced enough to where he can handle a lot of things and pick things up quicker than a rookie would, even though he played for another team.
“He’s been able to, I would say, transition pretty well from an assignment standpoint, technique standpoint and we’ll see how it goes. We’re kind of working through multiple moves there at tackle with Calvin, as you mentioned, and then the two players that we acquired with [Vederian] Lowe and [Tyrone] Wheatley [Jr.], so we’ll see how things come together. We gained three tackles there in one day it seemed like and it was good to get that.”
With Brown activated, the Patriots now have three tight ends on the 53-man roster. Brown will serve as a depth role behind both Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki.
Known as a blocking tight end, Brown has caught 51 passes for 478 yards and two touchdowns over 55 career games in the NFL.
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