October 25, 2014

Season’s Greetings – the Offensive Line

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s the ever-popular offensive line on the examining table today, friends.

What I Like

Continuity: For the last four years, the Patriots have essentially started the same five offensive linemen – Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur.  The same group will return again this season. There’s something to be said for everyone speaking the same language, especially in the stressful situations contenders often find themselves in.

Capability: They’ve become scratching posts of late, but two years ago the Patriots offensive line helped put up historic passing numbers, and faced with the loss of an MVP quarterback last year, led the way for one the half-dozen most productive running games in the league. Get over that f**king Super Bowl, already. The Pats have a capable offensive line, even still.

Confidence: The Pats have managed to develop and retain a steady crew of unspectacular backups – from Hochstein to Yates to Britt to LeVoir – who can step in on a moment’s notice and often play well enough that they’re not, well, noticed at all.

Competition: If there’s a God, Sebastian Vollmer will push at both tackle spots right away and Rich Ohrnberger will be ready to take over for Neal or even Mankins in 2010.

What I Don’t Like

Contempt, as in “Familiarity breeds”: Despite the above testimonials, I’m not sappy enough to believe it’s still 2003 and the best days are ahead for this group. Now, almost six years later, they at times don’t seem well enough suited to protect the Pats ever-widening spread passing game, and even though they piled up nearly 2,300 yards on the ground last season, they’re never quite as physical as you’d like them to be. These players are good enough that you can win with them still, but this position needs to move forward now, like so many others on the depth chart.

Creativity: As noted previously, the Pats haven’t produced an OL starter from either the draft or free agency since 2005. As respectable as the backups are, none of them have ever seriously pushed for a job. Ideally, that will change with this draft class, which also includes Louisville swingman George Bussey.

Edit: on Monday, the Patriots announced that both Ohrnberger and LeVoir would begin training camp on the Active-PUP list.

E-mail Scott Benson at [email protected]

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