New England Patriots: Six Takeaways from the Preseason So Far

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo share a laugh during warm ups Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo share a laugh during warm ups Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
offensive lineman Joe Thuney (44) during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The offensive line was the Achilles heel of the Patriots last season as injuries and ineffectiveness cost offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo his job as Dante Scarnecchia came out of retirement to take back his long-time job in New England. So far the team has already seemingly lost right tackle Sebastian Vollmer indefinitely after shoulder surgery and being placed on the PUP list.

Marcus Cannon–who struggled last season after a foot injury (believed to be a broken big toe) robbed him of his strength and movement–is set at right tackle and has taken to the coaching of Scarnecchia. So far Cannon has looked like the tackle the Patriots hoped he could be when he was drafted in 2011. Opposite Cannon, Nate Solder has been slowly returning to form after missing the last 11 games after tearing his right biceps. La’Adrian Waddle should be fine as the swing tackle behind the starters.

The right guard position is wide-open as last year’s left guard Josh Kline, second-year guard Shaq Mason, and former high first round draft pick Jonathan Cooper (who has been out injured for all the preseason games so far) are battling for the starting job. Second-year guard Tre Jackson has not practiced and will start the year on the PUP list.

At left guard it has been the surprise of training camp, third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State Joe Thuney, who stepped in at the first practice and has refused to give up the job. Thuney graded high with stats-based scouting service while in college as they ranked Thuney as one of the better blockers in the draft based on their proprietary ratings. So far Thuney has looked like a steal.

Thuney was expected to be a developmental project at guard with Kline, Mason, Jackson and Cooper ahead of him. Instead Thuney–who showed surprising athleticism at the scouting combine running a sub-5.0 40 time and 28 bench press reps–has grabbed the opportunity early in camp with Mason, Jackson, and Cooper all sidelined and refused to give it up.

Thuney has been highly intelligent as advertised after playing tackle and guard at North Carolina State has been solid blocking in the passing and running game. Thuney has looked like a potential long-term solution and if his play continues into the regular season the Patriots may have finally found their replacement at left guard after almost a decade of Pro Bowl quality play from Logan Mankins.

It may be early to compare Thuney to Mankins, but he could be the manning that position for a long time in New England.