FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady never knew how lucky he was to have one of the best, most consistent offensive lines in the NFL until it all went away last season.
Brady’s struggles to start the 2014 season were directly related to the New England Patriots’ patchwork offensive line. The Patriots made the perplexing decision to start Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon at guard last September, and the pass protection didn’t jell until Bryan Stork was healthy enough to start at center, and coaches made the wise move to insert Ryan Wendell into the starting unit.
The Patriots could have had similar issues to start this season. Stork is on short-term injured reserve, and Ryan Wendell was a healthy scratch after being removed from the physically unable to perform list late in training camp.
That meant the Patriots were forced to rotate three rookies on the interior offensive line. Undrafted free agent David Andrews played the entire game at center while fourth-round picks Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson shared snaps with veteran Josh Kline at left guard and right guard, respectively.
Brady was complimentary of the three rookies Thursday night after the Patriots’ 28-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he was sacked just twice.
“I think all three of those rookies that played on the inside did phenomenal,” Brady said. “It’s a tall task to get them up to speed with all different variations and protections and adjustments that we tend to make, and I thought they really hung in there. They played with a lot of toughness, so it was great to see. …
“Dave did a great job at center. Tre’ and Shaq and the two tackles are phenomenal, so it was great protection all night. It really allowed us to get some guys open down the field.”
The Patriots could continue to rotate their offensive line all season if it continues to keep Brady protected. The Patriots might want to stick with what works as they prepare for a dangerous Buffalo Bills defensive line next Sunday.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images