The New England Patriots offensive line celebrated Halloween a day early. Going up against the New York Jets on Sunday, Oct. 30, the unit delivered a scarily inconsistent performance that resulted in several negative plays and kept the offense from finding a steady rhythm throughout the day.
The inconsistency was not limited to the on-field performance, but the personnel as well. Starting center David Andrews was out with a concussion, and replaced by veteran backup James Ferentz — an experienced stand-in, but one that proved to be a downgrade especially versus as talented a defensive front as New York’s.
The Patriots also kept Marcus Cannon at right tackle despite regular starter Isaiah Wynn being active after a one-week absence; the two rotated with Cannon kicking out to jumbo tight end on several plays. Furthermore, Wynn replaced Cole Strange at left guard for a handful of snaps.
The moving parts were not the only issue for the unit, which also surrendered several negative plays on the day. Most notable and troubling were the quarterback sacks.
Mac Jones, in his second game back from a high ankle sprain and first start-to-finish performance since Week 3, was taken down six times. Add two more hits and four rushing attempts and you get 12 plays that ended with Jones making contact with an opposing defender — not necessarily an ideal outcome given his recent injury history.
One of those hits, meanwhile, directly led to a Patriots turnover. With the team down 10-3 in the second quarter and at midfield, Cannon was beaten around the edge by Bryce Huff. The linebacker was able to get a hand in Mac Jones’ throwing motion, which eventually led to an interception:
.@Bryce55H with the pressure, @mcarter2nd with the pick #NEvsNYJ on CBS pic.twitter.com/hUpOQYWPQz— New York Jets (@nyjets) October 30, 2022
In general, Jones never appeared to be quite comfortable operating the pocket behind his offensive line. While he himself was also not without blame for the unit’s general struggle, the O-line made the room for error noticeably smaller.
The passing game was not the only part of the offense negatively impacted by the up-and-down performance, though. The Patriots also had several runs either not gain any yards or end in a loss of yardage altogether.
In total, New England had seven runs for negative yardage on top of the aforementioned six sacks as well as two passing plays that lost ground. Moving backward on 14 out of 75 non-kneel-down snaps — a rate of 18.7 percent — is not a winning formula, and something the Patriots have to find a way to improve.
The same is also true for the penalties. Two of the offense’s four penalties came courtesy of the offensive line, with Cole Strange called for holding twice.
Of course, the rookie and the rest of the group are not going up against a defense of the Jets’ caliber every week. And the Patriots did win their fair share of battles as well, as head coach Bill Belichick pointed out on Monday.
“There were a number of times where they got us, but I’d say we at least fought and competed against them,” he said during a media conference call. “We made a few plays there too. We were able to clean out the pocket, Mac got some space on a couple of scrambles, guys running with the ball in their hands.”
Additionally, Rhamondre Stevenson broke runs of 35 and 14 yards — all while New England finished with a solid average of 4.2 yards per run. The team also drove into scoring range on seven of 12 possessions, despite ending with only one touchdown.
The fact remains, however, that the Patriots’ expectations go beyond this kind of output. And in order to meet them and take a step forward in their development, they need better play all around starting with the men up front.