The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots’ offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with rookie guard Joe Thuney.
Name: Joe Thuney
Jersey number: 62
Size: 6’4, 295 lbs.
2015 review: Before the Patriots selected Joe Thuney in the third round (pick #78) of this year’s draft, he was one of college football’s best and most versatile offensive linemen. 2015 was another example for this as the fifth-year senior switched from starting left guard to starting left tackle without a noticeable drop-off in production.
Despite changing positions, Thuney had yet another stellar season for the Wolfpack in 2015. Overall, he allowed a mere seven quarterback pressures in 12 games and entered the draft as Pro Football Focus' top pass blocking offensive tackle. Thuney, who is a well-rounded lineman and also looked good as a run blocker, gave up only two sacks, one quarterback hit and four hurries.
Due to his consistently good play during his last year in Raleigh, Thuney was named first-team All-ACC and invited to both the scouting combine and East-West Shrine Game. And, as mentioned above, became a third round draft pick.
2016 preview: Despite finishing his collegiate career at offensive tackle, Thuney will move inside in Foxboro – offensive line coach Dante Scarencchia confirmed this shortly after the draft – and compete for one of the starting jobs at guard. Given his talent and past production at the position, the 23-year old could eventually end up as one of the two winners.
However, before earning a starting role, Thuney needs to beat out some talented players. The rookie will have to compete against 2015 draft picks Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson, veterans Josh Kline and Chris Barker, as well as former Arizona Cardinals first-round selection Jonathan Cooper and Patriots' sixth round pick Ted Karras.
Thuney certainly has the talent to overtake his fellow guards on the depth chart but he quickly needs to adapt to life in the NFL and playing within New England's offense. If he can do that and consequently perform on the practice fields in the upcoming weeks, then he has a good chance to end up a starter on the Patriots' 2016 offensive line.
While he is projected to play guard at the next level, Thuney could also be in the race for the starting center spot. After all, New England's coaching staff worked him out at this position – the only one where he did not start a game in college – before and after the draft. In short: Thuney might not only be a candidate to start at both guard spots, he might also be a dark horse candidate for the starting center role.
Even though he is a rookie, Joe Thuney might already be the Patriots' most versatile offensive lineman. Given this versatility as well as his talent and draft position, Thuney is a lock to make the team.
The major question entering training camp is therefore which position he will ultimately end up at. While the early signs point to guard, where he could easily become a day-one starter, Thuney could also compete for the center spot.