Over the next couple of days, Musket Fire will be running an end of year, ‘report card’ feature, that will give a final grade to each positional group for the 2013 season. Up next is the offensive line.
Final Grade: B-
If I were grading this group solely based on run blocking, they probably would deserve an A. But protecting Tom Brady is the biggest key to every single Patriots game, and New England didn’t do a very good job of this in 2013.
The Pats ranked 12th in the league in pass blocking, which isn’t horrible, but it could have been better. Nate Solder did a great job at left tackle, and Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek played very well in place of the injured Sebastian Vollmer on the other side. But the guys on the inside were extremely disappointing. Logan Mankins wasn’t up to his usual standards, and Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly just don’t seem to have what it takes to be effective on this team. I believe that Wendell and Connolly have to be replaced this offseason, and restructuring Mankins’ contract wouldn’t be a bad idea.
With that being said, these guys did do a good job paving holes for the running backs, which is why they salvaged a B- grade. Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, and Shane Vereen are all quality backs, but they got a lot of help from the big boys up front. The Pats ranked ninth in both yards per carry, and yards per game, and their 19 rushing touchdowns was good for second in the league.
Sometimes I think that running backs get too much credit when they go off for 200 yards, or a four touchdown game. They certainly deserve a lot of credit, but if the offensive line isn’t controlling the line of scrimmage, and opening holes for them, their stat line won’t look pretty. I am not taking away anything from Ridley, Vereen, or Blount, but that front five deserves a lot more praise than they currently get.
Overall, I would classify this past year as a successful one for the offensive line, but it definitely wasn’t their best campaign. Brady found himself on the ground way too often, and I guarantee that Bill Belichick will find a way to fix this for 2014. What they did on the ground was good, and I fully expect them to continue their dominance in the run game next season.