Patriots’ Offensive Line Has Been Nothing Short Of Amazing This Season

The Patriots' offensive line has beat the odds to be one of the NFL's best units

by Doug Kyed

Oct 15, 2020

It’s time to give the big guys up front their due. The New England Patriots’ offensive line has been incredible, given the circumstances, four weeks into the 2020 NFL season.

The difficulty level has been set to damn near impossible for the Patriots’ offensive line as they’ve lost a legendary position coach and more than half of the starting unit. Yet, the line keeps plugging along as one of the best units in the NFL.

A timeline:

Jan. 29: Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retires.

April 25: Patriots draft offensive linemen Mike Onwenu and Justin Herron in the sixth round and Dustin Woodard in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

July 27: Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo announced as co-offensive line coaches.

July 28: Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon opts out.

Aug. 14: Woodard retires.

Sept. 26: Starting center David Andrews placed on injured reserve with a hand injury.

Oct. 5: Starting right guard Shaq Mason is inactive with a calf injury. Starting right tackle Jermaine Elumunor dresses but doesn’t play because of migraines.

By Week 4, the Patriots had just two Week 1 starters remaining on their offensive line. Two sixth-round rookies and a veteran center who wasn’t even on a roster this summer served as replacements.

They’ve shuffled through four different line combinations in four weeks.

Week 1:
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Joe Thuney
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Jermaine Eluemunor/Michael Onwenu

Week 2:
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Joe Thuney
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Jermaine Eluemunor/Michael Onwenu

Week 3:
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Michael Onwenu
C Joe Thuney
RG Shaq Mason
RT Jermaine Eluemunor

Week 4:
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Joe Thuney
C James Ferentz
RG Michael Onwenu
RT Justin Herron

“I think our coaches on the offensive line — Cole, Carmen — have done a great job of preparing guys to be in different spots because that’s just how football is,” Thuney said Saturday. “Especially offensive line, you never know if someone goes down how it will be rearranged. Credit to them for doing a great job with the game-plans, the installs, and guys working really hard in practice at different positions, rotating in and out. Everyone has been working together hard, and just want to put a good product on the field on Sundays whatever the lineup is. Just working together.”

The Patriots’ O-line ranks fifth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric and power success, fourth in stuffed rate, sixth in second-level yards, fourth in open field yards and 15th in adjusted sack rate.

Here are their positional ranks based on PFF’s grades:

Wynn: 13th
Thuney: 5th
Andrews: 3rd
Mason: 7th
Onwenu: 2nd
Eluemunor: 11th
Herron: 52nd
Ferentz: 29th

While Thuney and Wynn have been the mainstays through four weeks, Onwenu has been just as valuable as a late-round pick.

Onwenu has played jumbo tight end, right tackle, left guard and right guard and showed equal proficiency at all four positions.

The Patriots’ offensive line struggled through injuries and illnesses last season as Andrews, Cannon, Wynn and Mason all missed time. Having Wynn back healthy on the blind side has been huge. But Bricillo and Popovich also have done a tremendous job coaching up the Patriots’ reserves this season.

“Cole and Carmen have both done a good job,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said this week. “Having two people working with those guys — and again, we have players that have quite a bit of experience and then we have some other players that have a lot less experience, including Mike and Justin who have only played four games here so far. So, there are different needs there, but the flexibility that those guys have been able to show, with Justin playing both sides and a little bit of guard, Mike playing both guard and tackle, it’s been pretty impressive what they’ve been able to do.

“But the other guys as well — you know, Joe switching and gotten a lot of leadership from Isaiah and Joe and certainly Shaq and David when they were out there. So, overall, that group has worked hard. They have a good level of communication and understanding. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement there, but it’s heading the right direction. As some of our younger players get a little more experience and as we get a little more experience playing together consistently as a group, that will help us, as well. So, players and coaches have done a good job there. It hasn’t been easy, but they’ve worked very hard to have a solid level of performance.”

Blockers never generate as many headlines as quarterbacks or skill-position players, but the Patriots’ offensive line has been worthy of the press clippings this season.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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