The New England Patriots’ offensive line was outstanding down the stretch in 2018. The unit surrendered just 19 total quarterback pressures during the team’s three-game playoff run, while also paving the way for a ground attack that averaged 161.7 yards per postseason contest. For left guard Joe Thuney and his right-side counterpart Shaq Mason, the playoffs thus were a continuation of what was already a strong regular season.
Looking ahead towards 2019, little is expected to change when it comes to New England’s guard play: Thuney and Mason are again projected to be among the best players in the league at their respective positions. In fact, advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the best guard tandem in all of football heading into the new season. Given their performance last year, this should quite frankly not be considered a surprise.
“Mason, New England’s right guard, ended the 2018 season ranked first among all offensive guards with an overall grade of 85.0 — the third straight season which he finished with an overall grade north of 80.0. More impressively, however, was how good he was in both facets of the game,” writes PFF’s Mark Chichester in his breakdown of the Patriots’ duo. “As a pass-blocker, few were as efficient as Mason [...] As a run-blocker, he was a clear step above the rest.”
Mason, who was signed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension before the start of last season, posted some impressive numbers: he surrendered only one sack, six quarterbacks hits and nine hurries on 503 pass-blocking snaps, and also is listed with a run-blocking grade of 80.6 — more than five points higher than the next closest right guard. All in all, Mason was living up to the contract New England gave him.
Thuney, on the other hand, clearly outperformed his contract’s value last year. Still playing on his rookie deal, the former third-round draft pick ended the season as PFF’s third-ranked left guard — and a player listed as top-five as both a pass protector and a run blocker. “Thuney was the unsung hero of the 2018 Patriots offensive line,” wrote Chichester about the 26-year-old, who posted the highest pass-blocking grade of any Patriots guard since Brian Waters in 2011.
Given his development over the past three seasons and his performance in 2018, Thuney certainly has positioned himself well for a major payday. The question is whether or not it will come from the Patriots, who already invested considerable resources in Mason last offseason, or another team. Anything seems possible at this point in time, which also means that there is a chance 2019 is the last season the NFL’s best guard tandem plays together.
Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.