FOXBORO, Mass. — When Joe Thuney’s name gets brought up, words like “dependable” and “reliable” are thrown around a lot. Most of all, however, the Patriots’ franchise offensive lineman is really good, no matter what position he’s playing.
On Sunday in New England’s 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, that position was center as he was thrust into a new role to replace starter David Andrews, who was placed on injured reserve with a broken hand.
The Patriots had two options. They could play with their five best offensive linemen and move Thuney from left guard to center while keeping Michael Onwenu and Jermaine Eluemunor in key roles. Or they could replace Andrews with Hjlate Froholdt or James Ferentz, let Thuney stay at left guard and rotate Onwenu and Eluemuor at right tackle.
The Patriots chose the former, though that might not be the path they take next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Joe’s a great teammate,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Sunday after the game. “He’ll do whatever he can to help the team win. Filling in for Dave, that’s a big job. We just felt like that was the best combination we had for this particular game.
“We’ll see how that goes going forward. We’ll just take it week by week here. Collectively, the offensive line certainly held their own and did a good job here today. I’ll have to look at the film and take a look at each play and so forth.”
Thuney last played center in a game during the 2016 preseason his rookie year. He snaps prior to practice, so the motion has stayed fresh with the Pro Bowl left guard who’s making nearly $15 million this season on the franchise tag.
“We didn’t have no issues, so it was great,” quarterback Cam Newton said Sunday. “Smokin’ Joe is a person who is very reliable on this offensive line. The moment wasn’t too big for him to step right in to fill the shoes of Dirty Dave. So I was just excited that, to have anybody be replacing somebody, you’ll want that transaction to be what it was.”
Newton only was sacked twice for 6 yards. The Patriots carried the ball 38 times for 250 yards with two touchdowns in Sunday’s blowout win.
“I felt pretty good going into the game,” Thuney said Sunday. “Just wanted to get the communications, get the snap and execute the plays. I felt pretty good and just going to keep working at it.
Thuney said he received a lot of help from his teammates this week, singling out Newton, Andrews, Ferentz and Froholdt.
The 27-year-old is one of the NFL’s best left guards, but he has added value in his versatility. Thuney, a college offensive tackle, can play any spot on the Patriots’ offensive line.
“Thune is just showing everyone why he’s one of our most dependable players to be able to go in and play center and switch it up and show his versatiity and contribute in a huge way,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said Sunday. “That’s Joe Thuney. Knock on wood, but the guy’s done it since he came in.”