State of the New England Patriots Nation: Offensive Tackles

It doesn't look too bad.

Our offensive line yielded the second lowest sack rate in the league (18 sacks for a 3.6% sack rate).

We picked up Sebastian Vollmer, which was a step in the correct direction.

We were 2nd best in the league, according to Football Outsiders, on not getting stuffed on the line- which means that they usually would get the short yardage (why didn’t we run on 3rd and 2?).

However, our open field rank is 26th in the league. That means they’re not very good at getting big plays with our running backs.

There is still plenty of work needed.

So how do our Offensive Tackles look?

1. Nick Kaczur6-4, 315 lbs. 30 years of age, 6 year veteran.

Stats: 955 Snaps, 0 Penalties, 5 Sacks, 10 QB Hits, 20 QB Pressures

How he did: Everyone has been complaining about Kaczur. For some reason, the Patriots deemed him worthy of a long extension- I don't see it. Despite the fact that no fans really trust him anymore, Kaczur DID play the most full games out of any tackle on our team. His 11 full games were tops on our injured tackle squad.

Best Game: Buffalo – Week 1. Kept Brady clean (mostly) and established a run game.

Worst Game: Indianapolis. 2 sacks, 3 pressures and 1 hit. Opened the flood gates in the 2nd half and 4th quarter to prevent us from establishing an offense.

Where he did well:

  1. He did NOT get called for a penalty.
  2. He was average. At best.

Where he can improve:

  1. Everywhere. He allowed the most QB pressures, sacks and QB hits on the team.
  2. I think he is now a serviceable back-up. At best.

What does this mean?: Although his stats don't appear as terrible as the rest of the league (he's bottom 10 in QB Hits, bottom 40 in QB Sacks and bottom 35 on QB Pressures), they're still worst on the team. And on an O-Line that's aging and always open for upgrades, Kaczur should not have a starting spot next year. He's a serviceable back-up, but I wouldn't be surprised if we traded him on draft day for a late round pick.

 

2. Matt Light, 6-4, 305 lbs. 31 years of age, 10 year veteran.

Stats: 688 Snaps, 2 Penalties, 2 Sacks, 7 QB Hits 18 QB Pressures

How he did: Light only managed to play 6 full games this season- not a good sign for a player who appears to be on the last legs of his career. Sadly, if someone wants to complain about Kaczur's stats, one must also complain about Light's. If you extrapolate Light's stats, he's racked up nearly the same sack, QB hit and a HIGHER QB pressure rate. Yeah, Light is often pinned up against the best DE on the opposing team- that's no reason why we shouldn't be looking for improvement.

Best Game: Houston. Kept Brady clean, but only played 37 out of the 64 offensive snaps.

Worst Game: Baltimore. Played a full game, allowed 1 sack, 1 QB Hit and 3 QB Pressures, hard time establishing the run. And he got flagged.

Where he did well:

  1. He kept Brady clean (hit the ground 9 times) from the oppositions' best DEs.
  2. He provided veteran leadership on the O-Line.

Where he can improve:

  1. He's getting long in tooth- he can continue to pass knowledge onto the younger players on the team.
  2. I don't see him improving at this point in his career. Hopefully he doesn't fall off too far over the next season.
  3. He visibly slows down as the year progresses- he's only good for around 8-10 games a season now.

What does this mean?: Next year is Matt Light's final contract year. If we gave Kaczur an extension, I can see us giving Light a two year extension (similar to Stephen Neal's contract). Light will be a valuable depth player, but his starting years are coming to a close. He will play well for the first half of next season, but expect a drop off after mid-terms. If we don't pick-up a rookie who is NFL ready, I expect Light to play until he can't, Vollmer to shift from RT to LT and Kaczur to finish the season at RT. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Light traded.

 

3. Sebastian Vollmer, 6-8, 315 lbs. 25 years of age, Rookie.

Stat: 615 Snaps, 4 Penalties, 1 Sack, 1 QB Hit, 12 QB Pressures

How he did: He played more full games than Matt Light with 7 games. He gets my Patriots' Rookie of the Year award and emerged as one of the league's best tackles. Apart from his Jacksonville game where he wasn't incredible, (yeah, his "worst" game of the season was when he was still the best tackle on the team), his "second worst" game was against Indianapolis. He held Dwight Freeney to 3 QB pressures and 1 QB hit. That's incredible for a rookie. Yes, he had Mankins in support, but he managed to keep Freeney at bay.

Best Game: Tennessee. Nearly flawless, established a running game, effectively eliminated Kyle Vanden Bosch from the game.

Worst Game: Jacksonville. 2 Penalties, didn’t establish a running game (unnecessary, but still).

Where he did well:

  1. Everywhere. He did well in the running game and the passing game.
  2. He was versatile and stepped into the places he was needed.

Where he can improve:

  1. He can continue to learn. I don't see anything that was majorly critique-worthy.

What does this mean?: He is our tackle for the future. He can play LT and RT, which gives us a lot of freedom as to who we draft. We don't have to pick up a specific type of tackle since Vollmer can, and will, play the other side of the line.

 

1. Mark LeVoir. 6-7, 310 lbs. 27 years of age, 4 year veteran.

Stats: 62 Snaps, 0 Penalties, 1 Sack, 1 QB Hit, 1 QB Pressure

How he did: He played the HB position some times, he stepped in at times and, although he should be at the bottom of our tackle tier chart, his versatility on and off the O-Line means that we can keep him around.

 

What does this mean?: He's not going to be getting a lot of game time, but the fact that he can come off the bench and help out in the run game or the pass game as the 6th lineman means that our "intangible O-Line position" that used to be held by Russ Hochstein is currently taken by LeVoir.

 

What does this mean for the off season? Here are a couple things that may happen:

  1. We go into the season with our current tackles and don't change at all. This past season we saw the issues when Light, Kaczur and Vollmer all got injured at some point in time. This strategy would be dangerous as one injury could derail our season. I wouldn't advise it.
  2. We trade Kaczur and/or Light for draft picks. We go into the season down a tackle or two, but we may be able to fetch a second or third round for the combination of both players, or a mid rounder for one. We could utilize that pick on grabbing a younger player to replace their departure, but that would mean we'd enter the season with 3 young tackles, or 3 young tackles and an old veteran. Neither of those scenarios improve depth a considerable amount. I wouldn't advise trading Light this season- I wouldn't mind if Kaczur were traded for a 4th or 5th rounder.
  3. We keep Kaczur and/or Light and pick up a tackle in the draft. This, in my opinion, is the best possible option. We get more depth on the O-Line, we keep our Veteran locker room leaders and we have knowledge that can be passed on. I trust our scout team to grab an O-Lineman that will help us out, like they have many times before (every O-Line starter (Light, Mankins, Koppen, Neal, Kaczur and Vollmer) was drafted or discovered by the Patriots) and that player will have an immediate impact.

Some prospects to look at:

Ideal Size: 6-4 -> 6-8, 300 lbs -> 320 lbs

Bruce Campbell, Maryland 6-6, 314 lbs - 1st Round - Supposed to go top 15, physical beast of a specimen, Scar could mold him to be elite for years to come.

Trent Williams, Oklahoma 6-5, 315 lbs - 1st Round - Versatile, played both RT and LT.

Charles Brown, USC 6-5, 303 lbs - 1st Round - Great pass blocker.

Rodger Saffold, Indiana 6-4, 316 lbs - 2nd Round - Overall talent and good prospect.

Ciron Black, LSU 6-4, 327 lbs - 2nd Round - Versatile, suited for RT as Vollmer plays LT.

Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale 6-8, 312 lbs - 2nd Round - DII player with a TON of potential.

 

Walter Football has a solid list of tackles entering Free Agency this year. However, there aren't any that are worth taking that are full free agents- most would require us sacrificing a draft pick to obtain them. Jared Gaither would cost us a 1st round pick to grab, but at 24 years old, he could be more of a sure thing than anything we pick up in the draft.

 

Verdict: Probably upgrade the Tackle position in the draft- don't be surprised if we utilize a first or second round pick on an OT.

 

 

Read more: Quarterback Situation, Wide Receiver Situation, Running Back Situation and Tight End Situation

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus and ESPN.com.

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