I’m not going to lie, I was not sleeping well thinking about the New England Patriots Offensive line. The only thing that kept me sane was the Miracle Man; Dante Scarnecchia. I was willing to donate a kidney if it was able to help. And now, after the impressive preseason opener against the Detroit Lions? It’s better, not much but better.
Where they stand now
The Patriots offensive line has been in flux the last few seasons. More than is normal. Following an injury-plagued season in 2015 and Dave DeGuglielmo’s subsequent firing, Coach Scar returned. Nate Solder left following the 2017 season with no obvious replacement. Then the uncertainty of the Trent Brown’s tenure with the Patriots and his departure in free agency. As they ready for the 2019 season the future ins murky once again. It was enough to spark some sleepless nights and questions from the wife.
2019 Offensive Line Outlook
The promising rookie tackle in Isaiah Wynn ruptured his Achilles in his first preseason and is completing his rehab. He is attempting to win the starting job. Multiple retirements by veteran acquisitions provided a roller coaster of emotions. Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle have each left the team; weakening the depth. Even the developmental rookie in Yodny Cajuste has not been on the field due to injury. Journeyman practice squad member in Dan Skipper is starting at left tackle in the first preseason game against the Lions.
So, on a scale of 1-10 my trepidation about the state of the offensive line for the 2019 season stood at about a 354.25! They emerged as a strength for the team and a dual-edged sword. Protecting an aging quarterback is very important and providing a strong presence in the run game as well. If either of those dropped off then any chance of repeating for another run would be greatly diminished. So how did the squad do?
Takeaways from the Game
Over 450 total yards for the offense and thirty-one points. Proficiency in passing and improvements throughout the game in run blocking. No projected starters played in this game. Repeat that in your head. The starting lineup for this contest consisted of Dan Skipper, Hijalte Froholdt, Ted Karras, James Ferenzt, and Tyree St. Louis. Clearly not the murderers row of Pro Bowlers that will strike fear in the hearts of men. They are all young, hungry and looking to latch on here or elsewhere in the league. The group protected Brian Hoyer on the first three drives of the game that resulted in two touchdown throws. They were in uneven in for the run blocking in the early parts of the games as Brandon Bolden made his return. This can be expected with the backups and third-stringers competing against their counterparts in the first live action of the season.
When Jared Stidham entered the game the group began to gel and hit their stride. Undrafted rookie running back Nick Brossette was able to carry the ball for 66 yards and score a touchdown and a 2-point conversion in the game and Stidham was largely kept clean. He was able to scan the field, work through his progressions and target his receivers accurately. He added to Meyers impressive game and had several near scores.
Offensive Line Negatives
It was not all puppy dogs and roses for the team. Ferenzt and Froholdt contributed to the numerous penalties with three of their own. The running game only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. And while Dan Skipper performed well in the first preseason game, I worry if he’s the starter week one. Skipper is very tall and plays like it. He also is not violent and economical with his hands. He has been known to struggle with speed rushes that can bend low. Skipper is very lean and may not have the requisite bulk to hold up against NFL caliber pass rushers. This is where we need Scarnecchia’s magic the most.
It was still a huge weight off my mind that the quarterbacks were not running for their lives and that the running backs could make some headway. We shall see more as the preseason progresses and the game plans and opponents get harder. I think my wife will be happier that I am sleeping soundly.
#LFG for the 7th Ring in 2019!!