Callahan: The Patriots failed to help Mac Jones this offseason and paid for it on cutdown day

After Tuesday’s flurry of 53-man roster cuts, only one player will report to the Patriots’ quarterbacks room Wednesday morning.

Just two players will walk into the running backs meeting.

And close to a dozen, in fact 11, hulking, giant, sweaty offensive linemen will rumble into their own sitdown with new coach Adrian Klemm.

How did we get here? How did the Patriots get here?

Go back to March. Armed with more cap space than virtually the entire league, the Pats went bargain shopping at offensive tackle.

Riley Reiff signed a one-year, $5 million deal. Calvin Anderson inked a two-year contract with a maximum value of $7 million. Conor McDermott re-signed with the Pats before he could even hit the open market.

Now? Reiff is hurt because he was forced to play in the preseason finale at a new position. McDermott is out for the year, also hurt. And Anderson recently recovered from a serious illness that wiped out his entire training camp and once had him worried about his future in football.

Obviously, bad luck played a role in the Patriots’ lopsided roster more than 20% consists of offensive linemen. No player or front office ever asks for illness or injury.  But bad luck did not force the Patriots to trade for two backup offensive tackles Sunday; players that ballooned the Patriots’ O-line room from nine members to 11 and consequently stole roster spots from other positions.

Riley Reiff runs through a drill with a sand bag during New England Patriots training camp in Foxboro. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald (Thursday,July 27, 2023).
Riley Reiff runs through a drill with a sand bag during New England Patriots training camp in Foxboro. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald (Thursday,July 27, 2023).

Front-office desperation did.

Lack of talent and depth did.

Poor roster-building and investment did.

If the Patriots had instead stocked their offensive line with starting-caliber talent this offseason, they could’ve devoted those two roster spots to other positions and better players. Perhaps kept Bailey Zappe or Malik Cunningham. Or, hell, Pierre Strong, instead preparing a Plan C and Plan D for their patchwork offensive line.

Because let’s say instead of Reiff, it was Orlando Brown Jr. who got hurt last Friday. Or Mike McGlinchey who got sick. Or Jawaan Taylor, or any top-shelf offensive tackle they passed over in free agency to instead dive into the discount bin.

Right now, there’s minimal concern about the position. Or how well the Patriots can may or may not protect Mac Jones in a prove-it year. The Patriots would simply wait for them to come back, knowing Brown or McGlinchey or Taylor would recover and perform at a high level. They start, and that’s that.

It’s a waiting game, not a front office scramble drill. But now?

Even if Anderson returns to playing shape for Week 1, he’s a career backup the Broncos let walk after one season as their swing tackle. Or it’s Reiff, a 34-year-old the Bengals and Bears said thanks, but no thanks, to in consecutive offseasons. Or maybe it’s Vederian Lowe or Tyrone Wheatley Jr., the aforementioned trade acquisitions who have 33 career offensive snaps between them.

Who knows? The Patriots don’t.

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