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Lack of continuity a problem for Patriots’ offensive line three weeks into the regular season

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NFL: SEP 22 Jets at Patriots Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even before the NFL’s 2019 regular season started, the New England Patriots’ offensive line suffered a major blow: David Andrews, who started 66 games for the team since the 2015 season, was placed on season-ending injured reserve after blood clots in his lungs were discovered. Losing the team captain and key communicator obviously weakened the line, even though replacement Ted Karras is an experienced backup option himself.

Andrews did not remain the only injury up front, as the two starting tackles also went down: right tackle Marcus Cannon suffered a shoulder injury on opening day, causing him to miss the Patriots’ Week 2 game in Miami. During that game against the Dolphins, left tackle Isaiah Wynn hurt his toe and was subsequently placed on injured reserve — he will be out at least eight weeks because of the injury, with Marshall Newhouse filling his spot.

Needless to say that continuity is not a strength of this year’s offensive line, and the lack thereof has impacted the unit’s performance. Pass blocking has been mostly solid across the board, with the Patriots having surrendered only 18 quarterback pressures so far this season, just four of which sacks:

Offensive line pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Ted Karras 219 1.0 2 1
Shaq Mason 214 1.0 0 3
Joe Thuney 213 0.0 0 0
Marshall Newhouse 149 1.0 3 1
Marcus Cannon 137 0.0 2 0
Isaiah Wynn 82 1.0 0 0
Korey Cunningham 60 0.0 0 0
James Ferentz 11 0.0 0 0
Jermaine Eluemunor 10 0.0 0 0
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Run blocking is a different story, though, as New England struggled to consistently generate movement in the ground game. As a result, Patriots running backs have gained just 291 yards on 91 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per carry — the fourth worst number in the NFL. Of course, with the passing attack functioning well the team did not need to rely on its ground game just yet. However, the numbers are still somewhat concerning.

Advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus sees it the same way: in its recently released ranking of the NFL’s offensive lines, the Patriots’ takes just the 12th place. The position is solid — and, for example, puts the team ahead of AFC hopefuls like the Kansas City Chiefs (13th) and Houston Texans (28th) — but still a far cry from last year, when New England delivered an outstanding performance up front en route to a Super Bowl win.

While the unit still allowed the Patriots to cruise to a 3-0 record rather comfortably it therefore remains an area of concern due to the injuries suffered by Andrews and Wynn as well as the depth behind the starting options. However, there is reason for optimism: position coach Dante Scarnecchia is arguably the best in the league at his job, and has a history of turning replacement level players into serviceable commodities.

If the veteran coach can do the same with Karras — who is currently the best ranked lineman on the Patriots’ roster according to PFF — and Newhouse, the unit should be able to stay afloat until Wynn is eligible to return to game action in Week 11. It may take time for the current group to find its chemistry, but it would not be a surprise if it ultimately did.