The good news: the Patriots’ young-gun offensive line, featuring two rookies at guard (Joe Thuney, Ted Karras), a second-year undrafted center (David Andrews), and a pair of backup tackles (Cameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon), played just well enough to eke out a win over a Cardinals team that, in all seriousness, deserved to beat them.
The better news: Barring a black cat crossing his path, starting left tackle Nate Solder should be back at some point, and not a moment to soon. And soon, guard Shaq Mason won’t be wearing his Jason Pierre-Paul-Halloween-Costume club glove anymore. So there’s that.
The bad news: That’s probably as good as this line is going to get.
New England’s offensive line depth has kept getting progressively thinner as the old guard (no pun intended) – think Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly – either left, got dealt elsewhere, or retired, which brings us to Bill Barnwell’s ESPN feature today.
Barnwell runs down every team that’s not already staring at a top-10 draft pick in his "The holes playoff contenders need to fill – and a few options" feature, and the Patriots’ biggest need just happens to be the hardest to fill – quality offensive tackles.
"Nobody in the league is more aggressive about taking a shot on a player with an early-season trade than Bill Belichick, who has added the likes of Akeem Ayers and Jon Bostic with autumn deals for late-round picks in recent years. With Sebastian Vollmer on injured reserve, the Pats are stuck starting Marcus Cannon at right tackle, and Patriots fans know how terrifying that can be. Cannon is a viable swing tackle, but he's nobody's idea of a 16-game starter."
"Sadly for the Patriots, the NFL isn't exactly flush with offensive line talent these days. They could look to the Buccaneers for Gosder Cherilus, but he's probably not appreciably better than Cannon at this point. The waiver wire holds guards who fit best in zone-blocking schemes like Geoff Schwartz and Louis Vasquez, both of whom have experience playing tackle, but the pickings among pure tackles are limited to the likes of Cameron Bradfield and Sam Young. It might just be Cannon or bust on the right side."
If your reaction to the names Cameron Bradfield and Sam Young was "Wait, who?", then, well, exactly.
(Fun fact, Pro Football Reference says they're both 29-year-old free agent tackles that were both cut by the Jaguars within the last two seasons. The more you know...)
And, as Bill points out in other parts of the story, the odds of the Patriots or any other legit playoff contender picking up anyone like Schwartz or Vasquez on waivers is…not great. It’s more like a halfcourt shot.
Or, in terms of a potential trade, any team with a halfway decent lineman they might consider dealing is going to want the kind of draft picks that the Patriots would never, ever trade.
Oh, and as the scheduling gods would have it, New England squares off this weekend against a Dolphins team that sacked Russell Wilson three times last Sunday.
Last thing: Miami also still has that guy that Cam Newton called "Donkey Kong Suh".