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Film Review: Patriots offensive line has quietly been great at protecting the quarterback

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The Patriots needed their offensive line to improve this year. They’ve gotten what they’ve asked for.

The New England Patriots offensive line is going to be entirely different than the horrible product placed on the field in 2015. Nearly every starter has changed.

Left tackle Nate Solder is back after only playing 4 games last year. Left guard Joe Thuney is a rookie. Center David Andrews lost his job to Bryan Stork in week 11. Right tackle Marcus Cannon only started 6 games at the position last year (with two more starts at left tackle).

The starting right guard is still undetermined, although Shaq Mason had the inside line prior to breaking his hand. Right now, Josh Kline looks like the starter so long as Jonathan Cooper doesn’t return to practice. Mason was the team’s left guard in 2015, while Kline was the swing guard that played on both sides.

The lineup that we saw for most of 2015 is gone and, for the most part, the new version has been good. In fact, they’ve been very good.

I could bombard you with GIFs of the Patriots pass protection, but they wouldn’t be super interesting.

Solder, Andrews, and Cannon do a great job of forming the pocket, while Thuney and Ted Karras do a fine job in support. While it would be nice to see Solder force his man further outside, Tom Brady has a great pocket where he can operate.

Here we can see Cannon providing great protection for Jimmy Garoppolo, steering his rusher way outside the pocket. Andrews and Chris Barker team up to stonewall the defensive tackle. Solder and Thuney complete a nice protection pass to cover up the stunt.

The stunt, in particular, is where Shaq Mason struggled in 2015, so having Thuney step in and execute at a high level is a bonus for the line.

But over and over and over we watched the line provide nice pass protection for the quarterback, a consistency that was not present last year.

Now the line isn’t without flaws. Solder’s kick step is still coming back and rushers that can bend the edge will give him trouble. Thuney was consistently defeated by the Panthers linebackers. Andrews will need help against bigger and stronger nose tackles. The right guard position is still up in the air.

Cannon...well he’s been great this preseason, but he has a history of consistency issues so continued success in live action will go a long way to quelling any fears.

The whole group is still developing their run blocking, but the return of fullback James Develin and the future return of Shaq Mason should do wonders on that front. But the unit that broke down time and time again in pass protection in 2015 have made some serious strides under the returned coaching of Dante Scarnecchia.

The more this line plays together, the more cohesive they will be, and the offense will be more successful, raising the already high bar that the team has set in recent years.