The Patriots have an abundance of talent at the skill positions on offense, but football is not played 7 on 7. You can have all the talent in the world at quarterback, receiver, running back, and tight end, but none of that matters if your offensive line sucks. The Patriots offensive line has cost the team two Super Bowl appearances and at least one championship in the last three years. Both of those losses have come to Denver, who of course has the best pass rush that the league has seen in a long, long time, but that is no excuse. One of those losses came with Logan Mankins at left guard, and Dante Scarneccia as the offensive line coach, so don’t try to blame the Patriots terrible offensive line play on Belichick’s “arrogance” in trading Mankins, and definitely don’t think that Scar is a miracle worker.
The Patriots realize that the offensive line is a problem, and have addressed the issue in a variety of ways over the past few years. As a short term solution, they take advantage of the fact that Tom Brady has the ability to get rid of the ball in under two seconds on basically every snap. He’s able to do this because his receivers are so good at getting open quickly, but the team can’t rely on this when they run into teams that have elite corners that can play man to man and pass rushers that can get to the quarterback quickly (i.e. Denver). The team has also drafted three guards, one center, signed an undrafted free agent at center, and traded for another guard who just happens to be the 7th overall pick in 2013. They know it’s an issue, but it also can’t be fixed overnight. With that said, now is the time for the fix to be complete.
The three guards the Patriots have drafted in the last two years are all super athletic and have all been drafted in the first four rounds. They also happen to fit perfectly into the system that the team has put in place over the last 15 years. The thing that makes Dante Scarneccia the great coach, that he is universally known as, is that he is great at developing young offensive lineman. In his time as the offensive line coach he has developed Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, and Sebastian Vollmer, and those are just the guys who were drafted highly. Over the years the patriots have gotten by with undrafted free agents, and converted wrestlers at guard so Scar should be able to get these high draft picks at guard and center to where they need to be.
The rookies were actually really good in the run game last year, and Shaq Mason was one of the best lineman at pulling that I’ve ever seen, but pass protection is where they have struggled. As I said earlier you can get away with it when Tom Brady is your quarterback, but when you have someone who has never started an NFL game before playing the first four games you have to protect him. Lucky for the Patriots, both Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are going to be healthy this year.
When the two tackles are healthy, the Patriots offense is good enough to survive with below average play on the interior line. The Patriots have enough talent inside to be above average, if Scar can coach them up, which I have no doubt he will be able to do. The offensive line has to be better if the Patriots want to get back to the Super Bowl, and it will be.