The 2017 Patriots had the best offense in football in terms of scoring and yards and were one of the main reasons that the team was able to overcome serious defensive struggles through various points in the season to earn the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs and find their way to another Super Bowl. This year they have the potential to be even better, and it all starts in the trenches.
It seems counterintuitive that the Patriots offense could actually get better after losing their starting left tackle, their best running back, and a wide receiver who is a playoff legend in New England. However, the team has made some intriguing moves this offseason that could set them up for unprecedented success.
The lineup of skill players for New England remains mostly unchanged. While the Patriots lost Dion Lewis, they replaced him with Sony Michel who is a more talented back that could have a much bigger impact if he stays healthy. Danny Amendola’s departure and the trade of Brandin Cooks are not losses to take lightly, but the addition of Jordan Matthews and rookie Braxton Berrios have the chance to mitigate most of the negative impacts of those moves (in addition to the return of Julian Edelman). Plus the team still has the greatest quarterback and the greatest tight end in NFL history with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
The one area that has had an influx of new bodies is the offensive line. The Patriots have made a number of moves to bolster their line, such as signing Matt Tobin and Luke Bowanko, as well as trading for 49ers right tackle Trent Brown. Along with those three, New England also has Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle, Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, Cole Croston, Antonio Garcia, and Andrew Jelks. That is an extremely crowded offensive line room.
Now it’s true that very few, if any, of those players, will be able to perform at the same level as Nate Solder. However, the amount and type of players present could ensure that the Patriots end up with the best offensive line that they have had in years.
The amount of players in that room is crucial because it is clear that there will be a large number of cuts. This will create a much higher sense of urgency from each player and will produce the best level of competition, from which the best players should emerge. The type of players could also give the Patriots impressive options. Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon are both massive human beings, each standing over 6’6 and weighing at least 330 lbs. Together they would establish an overwhelmingly large front for New England that could bully opposing defensive fronts. If Brown was able to win the starting tackle job (could be right or left depending on what the team decides between him and Cannon), that would allow Isaiah Wynn to improve the interior offensive line.
When Wynn was first drafted, I was opposed to the idea of him playing guard because the team was much thinner at tackle. Now the addition of Brown could (if Brown performs well) allow New England to keep Wynn in the interior offensive line, likely at left guard. While I have been a Joe Thuney fan since Day 1, I can’t deny that Wynn would likely be a better option at left guard, especially after watching Thuney struggle against stronger defensive linemen last season. Wynn has a mean streak and his tape shows that he loves to hit people and knock them around.
A big, mean offensive line like this could allow the Patriots to have their best running attack in years, opening up huge holes for Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead to rack up yards. This would, in turn, open up the Patriots passing game, especially their play-action pass.
This lineup certainly isn’t set in stone, nor is it my prediction. It’s way too early for that, especially considering we haven’t even reached June yet. However, it does show that the Patriots will have much more options at offensive line than they did last year, and a revamped front five could take the Patriots offense to new heights with the reigning MVP at the helm.
Until next time – B$