The team has already ruled out right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen) and right tackle Trent Brown (right calf) with injuries, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list after having not practiced all week.
Only starting center David Andrews is in place for a unit that knows it must protect rookie quarterback Mac Jones better. Jones has been contacted 40 times this season, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, which is tied for eighth most in the NFL.
The Patriots (1-3) have also struggled to run the ball in recent weeks, finishing with minus-1 yard on eight carries in last Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and gaining 49 yards on 17 carries in a Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The team is expected to dip into its practice squad for multiple reinforcements on Sunday against the Texans (1-3), with veterans James Ferentz and Alex Redmond and rookie Will Sherman the top candidates for promotions.
“Whoever has the opportunity, I’m sure they’ll make the most of it,” head coach Bill Belichick said, when asked his level of concern about the offensive line. “I think they’ll be ready to go, so we’ll see how it all plays out.”
The Patriots have multiple options in how they might compose a revamped offensive line.
Second-year players Justin Herron and Yasir Durant are the next tackles on the depth chart, followed by third-year player Yodny Cajuste. Veteran Ted Karras is the top backup at guard, and he projects to fill one guard spot.
“It’s definitely not an ideal situation, but we have a great, deep room,” said Karras, who has 37 career starts on his resume (including playoffs).
“Everyone is working their hardest to put a winning performance out there Sunday … It’s an opportunity for a lot of us to be in the game when normally maybe we wouldn’t, and show what we can do and contribute to the team, and ultimately, hopefully, contribute to a victory.”