Even with Joe Thuney off to Kansas City, the offensive line projects as a strength for the New England Patriots this season. The team, after all, retained center David Andrews, while also adding offensive tackle Trent Brown via trade and valuable interior backup Ted Karras through free agency.
The starting five of Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, Andrews, Shaq Mason and Brown may not have played a single snap together yet, but its upside is apparent — something also by Steve Palazzolo. Writing for Pro Football Focus, Palazzolo recently ranked all 32 offensive lines in football.
3. New England Patriots
The Patriots are known for trotting out top offensive lines year after year. Last season was no different, and 2021 should be a similar story.
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn took a step forward in his second season, grading out at 82.6 overall, good for 11th among tackles. He had the fifth-lowest percentage of negatively graded plays in the run game, a stable number for tackles from year to year, so expect more of the same.
The Patriots rotated through several players at right tackle last season, with rookie sixth-rounder Michael Onwenu taking the majority of the snaps. He was one of the biggest surprises in the league, as he was excellent whether playing right guard or right tackle, and his 84.3 overall grade was by far the best of any rookie offensive lineman.
New England traded for Trent Brown, which will likely push Onwenu to left guard to replace Joe Thuney. Brown returns to New England after two years with the Raiders, where he graded out at 69.1 in 2019 and 68.9 last year on 282 snaps. Brown spent one year in New England in 2018, earning a career-high 73.4 overall grade.
The right guard spot is manned by Shaq Mason, one of the most powerful run blockers in the NFL. He has recorded 80.0-plus grades in the run game in four of his five seasons, though last year saw him post a career-low 60.5 mark in pass protection.
At center, David Andrews returns after notching a 67.7 overall grade last season, tied for 16th among centers. It was Andrews’ lowest grade since his rookie year in 2015, so expect him to bounce back toward the top half of the league.
New England has solid depth, as well, starting with the return of Ted Karras, who can play center or guard. Justin Herron also showed some ability as a sixth-round rookie, and Onwenu’s versatility is almost worth an extra roster spot.
The Patriots have solid starters all over the line, possibly forming the best offensive line in the league by the end of the season.
While it remains to be seen how each member of the unit will work alongside the others, the talent the Patriots have acquired up front cannot be denied. If New England wants its offense to return to form, and create a favorable environment for whoever the starting quarterback will be, the blocking will be crucial both in the passing and running games.