The Patriots’ offensive line is one of the strengths heading into the 2021 season and is on paper, easily a top 10 and arguably a top 5 unit.
Despite losing a legend with Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement as offensive line coach, the unit was well-coached in 2020 by Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo.
So, let’s take a brief snapshot of the position and see who stays, who goes, and who is on the bubble as the team begins training camp in 2021. It has a nice blend of established veterans, young players on the upswing, and team leaders who are looked to set the tone.
The depth is so great that the team lost one of the best guards in the NFL in Joe Thuney in free agency and traded a long-time very solid right tackle Marcus Cannon and they probably won’t miss a beat.
Thuney, just to be clear, was an outstanding addition from the time he arrived, never missing a game, are rarely, if ever missing a snap. He earned his big payday and will now play a huge role for the Chiefs. Thuney was also versatile and had played at all five positions along the line.
But last year’s surprise, Michael Onwenu will slide over to left guard to take his place, and to replace Cannon (who opted out in 2020), the team brought back massive Trent Brown. And arguably most importantly, the team resigned David Andrews.
With the team expected to lean on their running game, the addition of the two tight ends in free agency and this offensive line makes running 12, and 22 personnel something we’ll see quite a bit of at times this year.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 28.
Current roster – David Andrews, Trent Brown, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, Justin Herron, Ted Karras, James Ferentz, William Sherman, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Marcus Martin, Alex Redmond, R.J. Prince
Locks – Andrews, Brown, Mason, Wynn, Onwenu, Herron, Karras
Discussion – When it comes to the big guys on the offensive line, the potential starting line should consist of Wynn at left tackle, Onwenu at left guard, Andrews at center, Mason at right guard, and Brown at right tackle.
It is a deep, versatile unit that can move players around at different positions that should bode well for a big season in 2021 as long as the health of the unit holds up.
Isaiah Wynn is a very good left tackle when he’s healthy and on the field. The talent level is obvious when you watch him play. Despite his lack of size, where many analysts believed that he was going to be switched to guard, the Patriots always viewed him as a left tackle, and his play has justified that decision.
However, his health has held him back where he’s missed a ton of time in his young career due to a myriad of injuries. But the Patriots are confident that those injuries are behind him and picked up his 2022 option that will pay him $10 million.
Michael Onwenu was an absolute steal in the 2020 NFL Draft. Selected in the 6th round, (182nd overall), he was viewed as a bubble, developmental prospect. That was blown out of the water right off the bat in his rookie season.
He played like a veteran and a versatile one in 2020 and logged in starts at both guard positions and at right tackle, which speaks volumes about his upside. He will be tasked with replacing the outstanding Thuney at left guard, but as we’ve seen already, if injuries begin to pile up, he has the versatility to move around.
David Andrews was thought to be heading elsewhere in free agency but some of the best news during free agency was that he was returning to the team with a four-year, $19 million dollar contract. He was reportedly offered more money elsewhere but he and his family have been happy in New England and he opted to stay.
Besides being a stellar athletic technician at the position, he calls out all of the protections pre-snap at the line and is one of the most respected leaders in the building as well. He’s been a stalwart member of the line for six years, although he missed all of the 2019 season due to blood clots.
Shaq Mason is a road grader in the running game and has done a very good job of pass protection on the right side of the line. Because of playing opposite Thuney, Mason never really got his due but the Patriots recognize his value.
Teamed up with Brown on the right side of the line in 2021, look for the Patriots to run right at opponents behind these two. Mason is outstanding a pulling and getting to the second level.
Trent Brown came to the Patriots in 2018 and was outstanding at left tackle. He signed a huge four-year, $66 million dollar deal with the Raiders, which would have been hard to turn down for anyone. However, one gets the feeling that Brown would have loved to remain here in New England. Now he’s back.
This time, he’s expected to play right tackle and the massive tackle should be an instant upgrade over what the team had a year ago. And if injuries occur to Wynn, Brown has already shown that he can step up and play left tackle in this offense.
With depth an issue a year ago, the team brought back Ted Karras who left for a year to be the starting center for the Dolphins in 2020. He now becomes the top swing player for the interior part of the line. His familiarity with the team and the system should make it seamless.
Justin Herron was another draft pick from last year in the 6th round (195th overall) who earned the top swing tackle nod last year. He should once again nail that down but will receive camp competition from Korey Cunningham, the oft-injured Yodny Cajuste, R.J. Prince, and this year’s diamond in the rough draft pick William Sherman.
Speaking of Sherman, as we’ve said, the Patriots love players with versatility, and the rookie 6th round draft pick, (197th overall), can play either guard or tackle. With James Ferentz who has always been a favorite of the coaches in the interior line, could the team opt to keep nine OL players this year? While it seems like one too many, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
But with the depth and versatility, if Wynn were to get hurt (as we mentioned above), Brown could slide over to left tackle and either Herron or Onwenu can move to RT. Karras could step up to play left guard. The line can switch up players seamlessly and this bodes well for a big 2021 season.
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