Mac Jones, center, huddles up with the Patriots offense, including Hunter Henry, left, and Yodny Cajuste, right. Matt Patterson/Associated Press

The Patriots starting left guard Mike Onwenu returned to practice this week, but their offensive line is still in flux.

During a morning press conference Friday, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick described the position as a “moving target” ahead of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.

Backup offensive tackle Justin Herron, who replaced left tackle Isaiah Wynn last week, missed practice Thursday with a new abdomen injury. If Herron is unavailable Sunday, fellow backup Yodny Cajuste is a candidate to start, after making his NFL debut at right tackle last weekend in Houston. Wynn remains out on COVID-19 reserve.

Starting Cajuste at left tackle would be part of a worst-case scenario that also includes Onwenu and starting right guard Shaq Mason being ruled out. The Patriots started Ted Karras and James Ferentz in their places last week, when Herron played the best game of any O-lineman, allowing just one hurry on Mac Jones’ blind side. If Cajuste starts at left tackle, the Pats should field either backup Yasir Durant or practice-squad rookie Will Sherman on the right side.

It’s also possible that Onwenu, if healthy, could play right tackle, where he started 11 games last year. Though he’s practiced at left guard virtually all season. If only one between Onwenu or Mason is available Sunday, Karras should be expected to fill the other guard spot, with some combination of Herron, Cajuste and Durant playing left and right tackle.

Overall, Belichick said the team is taking it “day to day” with the offensive line.

The Patriots will hold one final practice Friday afternoon and release their final injury report Friday evening.

OVER THE PAST two weeks, Mac Jones’ connection with star tight end Hunter Henry has come alive.

Henry caught six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Texans last week, all season highs.

Now, it’s Jonnu Smith’s turn.

Henry believes it won’t be long before the other half of Patriots’ vaunted tight end duo also finds his chemistry with Jones. In fact, Henry predicts Smith, who also signed a lucrative free agent deal to join the Pats, will have a breakout soon.

“He’s going to come on,” Henry said Thursday. “I’m excited to see him break out.”

And this could very well be the week. The Cowboys are the second-worst in the league defending tight ends, according to Football Outsiders’ popular efficiency metric, DVOA. So it’s reasonable to assume both of them should be targeted heavily by the rookie quarterback.

Smith had two catches for 27 yards against the Texans. Overall, he’s pulled in 15 receptions on 23 targets during the season. He’s also caught one touchdown pass.

The expectation was for Smith to be a game-changer. Thus far, it hasn’t happened.

Asked how Smith has handled his slow start, Henry couldn’t have been more complimentary.

“He’s been fantastic. He’s a stud, man. He’s fun to be around, works his tail off,” said Henry. “There’s a lot of competition in the room, always trying to compete with each other, and against our guys, and on the field. I think it’s a healthy room where we’re always trying to better ourselves, communicate better, so those things are continuing to improve.”

Henry says he’s been supportive, but believes Smith does a good job handling the adversity on his own.

“Man, he’s been doing this for awhile. Obviously, I’m going to be there and encourage him through some of those tough times. But the man, he’s done it for a while,” said Henry. “He knows what he’s doing.”


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