Work to improve the overall execution of the offensive line
Speaking of the offensive line, position coach Dante Scarnecchia has his work cut out for him this year. While the line isn’t nearly as bad as some hypercritical Patriots fans would have you believe, it’s also decidedly not a team strength in 2019 either… which is rare during the Brady/Belichick era.
Fill-in center Ted Karras has done a decent job smoothing the transition over from incumbent David Andrews, who was lost for the season with a blood clot in his lungs at the beginning of the year. Left guard Joe Thuney has played exceptionally through nine weeks, which is no surprise. Right tackle Marcus Cannon has also been solid as a rock on the end, despite missing some time earlier in the season to injury.
The main problems have been with Marshall Newhouse at left tackle and Shaq Mason at right guard. While Newhouse’s struggles aren’t completely unexpected given his modest pedigree and the fact that he had to sub in on the fly after Isaiah Wynn went down with turf toe, Mason’s down year is a bit more surprising – and frankly, alarming.
Along with Thuney and Andrews, Mason was considered to be a major reason why the interior of the O-line was one of the best in the league. Some have even suggested he’s the best lineman the Patriots have on their roster, but he certainly hasn’t played like it this season. Whatever it is that’s causing him to regress, here’s hoping he figures it out sooner rather than later.
The line has been uncharacteristically leaky this season, allowing Brady to get sacked 15 times already. That’s the same number of times he was sacked in total during the 2016 season.
What’s worse, even when defenders aren’t taking Brady down, they’re hurrying him, hitting him, and/or forcing him to throw the ball into the dirt. Brady is too smart and experienced to let that kind of pressure force him into making careless decisions that result in turnovers, but it’s still a concerning development that needs to be addressed.
And then there’s the connection between the line play and the Patriots’ lack of a decent run game. More on that next…