I’m not going to say that the New England Patriots offensive line is elite. Or great. I won’t even say they’re “very good.” But I will absolutely go out on a limb and say that the Patriots offensive line is perfectly average and that should be enough for the offense to succeed.
According to Pro Football Focus ratings (PFF), the Patriots offensive line ranks 14th in the NFL.
“The return of long-time OL coach Dante Scarnecchia has had a significant impact on a unit that was one of the worst in football a year ago,” PFF analyst Sam Monson writes, “though the natural progression of a lot of young players is tough to quantify, too. Another unit better at run blocking than it is in pass protection, many of New England’s O-line struggles are masked by Tom Brady and his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo each had even faster average times to throw than Brady this season, with all three ranking among the 10 fastest times in the league, at under 2.4 seconds per attempt. As a line, they have surrendered 91 total QB pressures on the season.”
While every players has had their ups and downs in 2016, LT Nate Solder, LG Joe Thuney, OC David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, and RT Marcus Cannon have been fairly consistent this year with achieving and exceeding expectations.
Every player is performing at a higher level than they were in 2015, with Cannon actively playing like a “very good” player deserving of a contract extension. Thuney has excelled as a rookie and Andrews clearly has the trust of QB Tom Brady. Solder and Mason have been less consistent, but they’ve had their moments.
The goal for the Patriots offensive line is to string together positive performances on a weekly basis. This doesn’t mean that they have to dominate at the level of the Dallas Cowboys, but if the group can limit mistakes, allow the running game to have a chance to leave the backfield, and give Brady enough time in the pocket for WR Chris Hogan and TE Rob Gronkowski to create a deep passing game, then the line will have done its job.
This offensive line is just going to keep getting better over the remainder of 2016.