The New England Patriots don’t necessarily need an overhaul along their offensive line to improve their pass protection and run blocking.
This has become somewhat of a controversial opinion since the Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, but for the most part, the Patriots have the necessary pieces in place for a solid offensive line in 2016.
Much of their success, however, is dependent on the improvement of their young interior line. Guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson must make a second-year leap, and either Bryan Stork or David Andrews has to emerge as the team’s starting center of the future. The final step is for Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer to stay healthy and for the Patriots to find a more dependable third tackle option.
Reportedly re-hiring Dante Scarnecchia to coach the Patriots’ offensive line also should cure some issues.
Let’s get into this week’s mailbag:
@DougKyed who do you see making the biggest leap from rookie to 2nd year?
Here are the Patriots 2015 rookies under contract or expected to be back in 2016:
RB Joey Iosefa
WR Chris Harper
WR DeAndre Carter
TE A.J. Derby
OL David Andrews
OL Shaq Mason
OL Tre’ Jackson
DT Malcom Brown
DE Trey Flowers
DE Geneo Grissom
LB Kevin Snyder
LB Brandon King
LB James Vaughters
SS Jordan Richards
FS Cedric Thompson
CB Darryl Roberts
CB Justin Coleman
LS Joe Cardona
I think Brown will make the biggest impact next season, but he already was really good as a rookie, so I’m not sure how much of a “leap” he’ll make.
I’m going with Mason. With a full year of regular pass blocking under his belt, plus the instruction of Scarnecchia, I think he could be a special NFL player. He’s the most athletic offensive lineman the Patriots have had since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000.
It’s tough to get people excited about special teams, but King has a chance to be one of the league’s best in the role.
@DougKyed Will the pats face more or less competition from the rest of the AFC east next year?
I’m going to guess they’ll face about the same amount of competition. All three teams could be a little better in 2016, but the Patriots are just too talented for the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets to compete.
Adam Gase would really have to turn around the Dolphins for them to be competitive in 2016, and Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick shouldn’t exactly instill fear in New Englanders’ minds.
@DougKyed reasonable expectations for Darryl Roberts?
Roberts had some very impressive moments during training camp before he injured his wrist in the Patriots’ preseason opener and was placed on injured reserve. He regularly made plays in practice and started that preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.
Roberts could be the Patriots’ No. 3 cornerback next season depending on his offseason, especially given their shallow depth at the position. He’ll have to compete with Justin Coleman and any new cornerbacks the Patriots bring in.
Roberts might be the most athletic player the Patriots have ever drafted under Belichick. It will be fascinating to see if that athleticism translates into special play.
@DougKyed is your refrigerator running?
Yes, why do you ask?
@DougKyed ACL is really an 18 month+ injury,Blount is badly injured…have to pick up a good RB- your thoughts on who?
I think Matt Forte, Joique Bell and Knowshon Moreno all could make sense for the Patriots in free agency. I also wouldn’t be completely shocked to see Stevan Ridley back on a short-term, low-risk deal.
I’ll have to wait and see how the prospects perform at the NFL Scouting Combine before I could narrow down who they might draft. They typically like bigger backs with impressive agility.
@DougKyed better idea for next season 2 TE set or 2 RB set?
I think they’ll go with whoever is the best fifth weapon, whether that’s an extra running back, tight end or wide receiver.
If the Patriots bring in Forte, and if Lewis is healthy, I could see them running some creative two-running back sets, since both backs can catch the ball.
The Patriots could bring in another top-tier tight end if they feel they can receive good value from the position. Dwayne Allen, Ben Watson and Ladarius Green all are available at tight end and should be better than Scott Chandler was in 2015.
The Patriots currently have Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola behind Julian Edelman at receiver, though they could look to free agency or the draft to improve the position. Mohamed Sanu is the popular free-agent possibility, though he would have to be affordable.
@DougKyed Reports are Undertaker’s WM opponent is not currently “on the roster”.
That means it’s going to be you, right?
I don’t want to spoil WrestleMania for anyone, so I’ll say no comment.
I will be there, however.
I’m very intrigued by this rumor that Taker’s opponent isn’t on the roster right now, by the way. Everyone seems to assume this means he’ll face Sting, but he has spinal stenosis.
I have no idea who else it could be, though.
@DougKyed you’re favorite scenario for Lesnar / Reigns / Ambrose on sunday at Fastlane?
1. Dean Ambrose wins
2. Brock Lesnar wins
3. Roman Reigns wins
I still haven’t completely given up on Reigns, but I am growing a little tired of him being pushed so hard. I’m not sure if I’m ready for such a tepid reaction to the WrestleMania main event.
WWE has to make Reigns a heel or give him a manager. He’s just not ready for mic work, and it becomes pretty obvious every “Raw.”
WWE seems to be pushing Ambrose pretty hard right now, so Option 1 doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility.
If Lesnar wins, then we could see Ambrose vs. Reigns at WrestleMania, which would be fun.
Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Aug 28, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; New England Patriots center Shaq Mason (69) on his block during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. New England wins 17-16 over the Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports