AFC East: Ranking the running game—the New England Patriots rush ahead

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No. 1: New England Patriots

Strength: The New England offensive line is the best overall run-blocking line in the AFC East. David Andrews, Mike Owenu, and Trent Brown are all excellent run blockers. The addition of Sidy Sow (guard/tackle), Atonio Mafi (guard), and Jake Andrews (center/guard) through the draft provides quality backup options for this group.

Weakness: Cole Strange. Neither Strange’s run-blocking grades nor his pass-blocking grades (67.8) in 2022 made the case for using a 1st-round pick on him. Strange did, however, show signs of improvement in the last two games of the season, with overall offensive grades of 66.3 and 75.5 against Miami and Buffalo, respectively. Strange is a very hard worker and Pats’ fans can hope that his late-season improvement will carry over into 2023.

X-Factor: Pierre Strong. The Patriots are often reluctant to give much playing time to rookie running backs. Recall, for example, that Super Bowl LI hero James White only played in 3 games during his rookie season in 2014. With the departure of Damien Harris, the Patriots will need to use the speedy Strong much more frequently in 2023 than in 2022.