After having an unstable season on the offensive line last year that included starts from Marshall Newhouse and James Ferentz, and three players landing on season-ending injured reserve the Patriots will enter 2020 with similar uncertainty. Questions like: Is David Andrews healthy enough to resume his playing career? What is up with the Marcus Cannon retirement rumors? Will Joe Thuney be a Patriot week one? have all yet to be answered. Despite that I'll still take a shot at tiering the offensive line and trying to figure out who will survive final cuts.
We’ve done these at all of the skill positions on offense as well so check those out below:
Also you can find me on twitter @KeaganStiefel for more offensive line talk if you’re into that sort of thing. Now for the good stuff.
Joe Thuney — It isn’t often that you find a player in this category who may be traded, but that is the case with Joe Thuney. Thuney is an absolute stud. He has played 74 of a possible 74 games throughout his career and was on the field for 99.62% of all possible snaps throughout that period (I’m very proud of that math). Not only has he played, he’s played exceptionally. He continues to get better as his career goes on and was an All-Pro last year. The problem lies in his contract. The Patriots used the franchise tag on him this year because they weren't able to work out a long term extension on time. I highly doubt that he gets traded, but it is always an option. Personally I am a proponent of paying your good players what they deserve but that’s just me. Thuney should be in his left guard spot come the start of the season.
Isaiah Wynn — First round picks tend not to get cut headed into year three (Dominique Easley excluded) so it’s safe to say Wynn makes the roster. Like Thuney, he is very good on the field. In nine career games and 502 offensive snaps, Wynn has only given up two sacks and been called for three penalties. The similarities with Thuney stop there as in his two seasons since coming out of Georgia, Wynn has played nine of a possible 36 games. He spent all of 2018 on injured reserve with a torn Achilles and found himself back there again for eight weeks last season with turf toe. 2020 is the definition of make-or-break for Wynn. If he stays healthy, he can prove he’s got all the pieces to the left tackle puzzle. If he finds himself on IR again he may be out of a job. The Patriots cannot afford to be without their left tackle while they try to develop their young quarterback, and Wynn can’t afford to miss any more time.
David Andrews — After missing last year with blood clots in his lungs, Andrews was cleared to return to football this past April. He should slide right back into the center position, which is good news for all. Having a reliable center in front of Jarrett Stidham should prove to be vital to his development. Having a steady hand in the middle will help stabilize an interior offensive line that sputtered early on last season finding an identity after Andrews hit IR. The team captain’s return should keep that interior strong while the skill position players figure themselves out early on.
Marcus Cannon — The caveat here comes in the weird retirement rumors that swirled around earlier this year. Cannon has fought injuries throughout his whole career and it would not surprise me to see him call it quits; he hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2014. When he is on the field he is as reliable a right tackle as you could ask for when healthy. He’s no world beater but he get’s the job done. I don’t expect him to be around much longer but I’m sure he’s in New England in 2020.
Shaq Mason — I’m sure if we could go back a year and a half the Patriots would have given a five-year $50 million contract to Thuney instead of Mason. Since that’s not how it works it’s a safe bet that Mason finds himself at right guard come opening day. The 2018 All-Pro saw a decrease in his game in 2019 but with his old buddy Andrews back it should help Mason return to form.
Fringe Roster Guys
Yodny Cajuste — You would be hard pressed to find a bigger Yodny Cajuste fan than me. After missing his rookie campaign with a quad injury, the 2019 third round pick will be competing for the swing tackle spot in camp. Though he primarily played left tackle in college he did spend some time on the right side early on at West Virginia. I expect Korey Cunningham to have the edge entering camp but I would not be surprised to see Cajuste as the top reserve come mid-season. Given the injury history of Cannon and Wynn, the swing guy is sure to see some playing time.
Korey Cunningham — Like I said above, I expect Cunningham to have an edge to enter the season as the swing tackle. He played in that spot last year after Marshall Newhouse was signed to take the second starting role for Wynn and Cannon when they missed games. Cunningham is a safe bet for New England as he has stayed mostly healthy throughout his career. He just has spent most of that time as a healthy scratch on game days. This is his best chance to carve out a role for himself. It will be interesting to see how many tackles the Patriots’ opening day roster has.
Hjalte Froholdt — Froholdt is interesting. If you look at his college resume he could be viewed as a potential Ted Karras replacement: in his final two years at Arkansas he didn’t allow a single sack and played at all three interior positions. His pro tape tells a different story, though. Froholdt was downright bad in the 2019 preseason. He struggled with penalties and allowed a lot of pressure on Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Still being fairly new to offensive line (he switched from defensive tackle in 2016), the adjustment must have been huge from college to the pros. Another year is the system should help him grow. He has the most positional versatility on the interior, so his development should be a focal point in camp.
Jermaine Eluemunor — I believe the Patriots will carry nine offensive lineman entering the season. Depth was an obvious problem for them last year and having an extra lineman (they carried eight most of last year) could be a huge weight lifted off the shoulders of Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo, who according to David Andrews are replacing the legendary Dante Scarnecchia as offensive line coach(es). This is important for Eluemunor as I see him and the next man as the two players fighting for the last spot. Eluemunor was given an original round tender entering free agency, re-signing him on for another year. Entering free agency, New England didn’t know what could happen so I assume this was a depth move. Eluemunor played all of 67 snaps last year with the Patriots.
Michael Onwenu — Michael Onwenu is a hoss. The 6’3” 350lb Michigan product is as good a run blocker as you will see at the college level. His size allows him the opportunity to just straight up bulldoze people. His problems lie in pass protection. His feet aren’t bad but he leans a lot and that gets him beat on speed rushes. If he gets coached up correctly there’s no reason why this guy doesn’t make the roster.
Dustin Woodard — Woodard is the kind of guy that you root for. Coming out of high school he had one offer to play Division I football, and it was at Memphis where he would go on to play and start in more games than any other offensive lineman in school history. He also showed versatility playing at both guard and center. On top of all of that he posted a 90.1 run blocking grade last season which puts him in the elite category. The reason he finds himself amongst the longshots is his size. Woodard is 6’2” 280 lbs and had some of the shortest arms at the combine. His best chance at making the roster would be shotty development from Froholdt or a setback for Andrews. If both of those players stay healthy/develop I think Woodard finds himself on the practice squad. That being said he’ll probably be the starting center Week One and make me look like a fool.
Justin Herron - I have a soft spot for Herron as I nailed his selection in this years draft:
I still believe Herron is a project guy who could come down with the Foxboro flu sometime during training camp. Either that or he finds himself on the practice squad.
Camp Body (No Chance in Hell)
Najee Toran — Toran finds himself here because of the competition. He was on and off San Francisco’s active roster and practice squad throughout his rookie year and found a home on the practice squad New England last season. After the season New England signed him to a futures contract and he projects as a guy to eat up reps in the preseason. Maybe he finds himself back on the practice squad.
No Chance List
- Brian Lewerke
- Gunner Olszewski
- Sean Riley
- Isaiah Zuber
- Devin Ross
- Najee Toran
That will do it for the offense, I will post an entire offensive tier on my Twitter for you guys to check out. Look out for more UDFA profile this week.