The New England Patriots had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season, with football analysis website Pro Football Focus ranking the team third in the league in 2017. The interior line was dominant and while the team lost Marcus Cannon to injury, the tackles did just enough to keep Tom Brady standing upright all the way to the Super Bowl.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) doesn’t think New England has an encore performance in the tank and projects the Patriots to be the 11th-best offensive line in the NFL for 2018.
While the interior for the Patriots is solid, the big questions come at tackle. Marcus Cannon is coming back from an ankle injury that placed him injured reserve last year and has only one season graded above 80.0 in his career. Trent Brown on the other hand is currently penciled in at left tackle after having spent his career in San Francisco on the right side and only cracking an overall grade above 70.0 in 2017. First-round pick Isaiah Wynn could be the dark horse here to win the starting left tackle job as he allowed all of four pressures last season at the position for Georgia.
PFF projects the Patriots starting lineup to have Trent Brown at left tackle, rookie Isaiah Wynn at left guard, and David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon at their typical starting positions.
My immediate thought is to wonder why Joe Thuney isn’t in the lineup, especially when he was the 14th-best guard in the NFL by PFF’s own rankings. And if Wynn earns the starting job on merit, which is the only way he’d start, then shouldn’t the Patriots offensive line be better in 2018?
The biggest change is at left tackle where Brown replaces Nate Solder. Solder is an elite run-blocking tackle and while he’s an inconsistent pass blocker, he’s one of the best when he’s in a groove. Brown is a great pass blocker, but he needs to work at his run blocking.
The Patriots boast three elite players in Andrews, Mason, and Cannon and I have a hard time projecting the team to be worse at left guard; Thuney was playing well over the second-half of the 2017 season and looked to be taking a Mason-like step forward.
I trust that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will do enough to maximize the ability of these players. Even if Brown is a step back from Solder at left tackle, I have a hard time seeing this offensive line showing much decline in 2018.