There's no question that the offensive line was the worst unit on the Patriots last season. Left tackle Nate Solder was lost for the season with torn biceps, the Patriots relied on a medley of injured, undrafted, or rookie (or some combination of all three) players on the interior line. It was awful. Some wanted the Patriots to add another offensive tackle in the offseason to challenge Marcus Cannon or be a potential replacement for Sebastian Vollmer, but instead the Patriots added two interior linemen in 3rd round rookie Joe Thuney and former top 10 pick Jonathan Cooper. Are you worried at all about the tackles moving forward?
I'm worried about tackle depth, that's for sure. Solder and Vollmer, when healthy, are a great set of bookends to the line, but injuries/concussions have been an issue for both as of late. I wouldn't be surprised if Thuney, who has played all along the offensive line, eventually finds himself playing tackle, as New England has plenty of interior linemen at the moment. I personally don't see Cannon sticking around, as his contract doesn't match his production, which means that there might be another interior lineman bumped out to tackle as well. To that end, who do you think are the five guys who will be taking the field for Week 1, protecting Jimmy G from an absolutely monster pass rush?
Thuney at tackle would be a big surprise, even though he played there his final season in college. I think more scouts had him moving in to play center than had him staying out at tackle. I actually think that Thuney could be a day one starter at guard, which is why I'd hesitate putting him with the tackles, and I think that Cannon will get another chance to prove his worth under Dante Scarnecchia.
My ideal starting lineup would include Nate Solder, Josh Kline, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, and Sebastian Vollmer, and I'd be happy with either combination of Kline and Thuney at left guard and center. I think these are the best and most athletic linemen on the team and I'm still scared after Bryan Stork's AFC Championship Headbob Giveaway. I see Cannon, Cooper, and Stork as the top back-ups at tackle, guard, and center, with Tre Jackson as the surprise cut or IR stash due to his knee problems (and he could return in 2017 after Cooper's contract expires). How much do you trust in Scar to get this line back to where it has to be in order for the Patriots to succeed?
Scar's track record speaks for itself - I don't think it's an exaggeration to call him one of the greatest O-Line coaches of all time. If he wanted a head coaching job, he could have gotten one ten times over, but he was right where he wanted to be in New England - so much so that he un-retired to return to the sidelines.
That said, I worry that there is a faction of Patriots Nation that is saying "Scarnecchia is back! Everything is fine! 19-0!", which definitely isn't the case. The O-Line wasn't just bad last season...it was BAD. Like Zoolander 2 bad. Granted, a good chunk of that was due to injury, but to expect the team to just magically right the ship in that department immediately is a bit optimistic. I think it will be a lot of plug and play and experimentation, and the line will for sure be better, but until I can see some consistency in-game it's going to be hard to erase the nightmares from last year.