By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Rare is the occasion when a team can lose an All-Pro caliber player without missing a beat. But the Patriots appear to be in position to do precisely that on their offensive line in 2021.READ MORE: Boston's Famous 'Skinny House' In The North End Sells For $1.25 Million
After losing Joe Thuney to free agency (on a massive $80 million deal), the Patriots are in surprisingly decent shape to be just as strong on the O-line this year … if not perhaps even stronger.
That’s due to a trio of reasons. First would be finding an absolute gem in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, and second would be the fact that Trent Brown absolutely loves everything about the New England Patriots. Third, captain David Andrews decided to stick around and re-sign with the Patriots as a free agent.
Here’s the wider look at the offensive line for the 2021 Patriots.
PRESUMED STARTING OFFENSIVE LINE
LT: Isaiah Wynn
LG: Mike Onwenu
C: David Andrews
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Trent Brown
T Justin Herron
C/G Ted Karras
C/G James Ferentz
G James Redmond
G Marcus Martin
T William Sherman
G R.J. Prince
T Korey Cunningham
T Yodny Cajuste
Offseason additions: Brown (trade), Sherman (draft), Prince (UDFA), Karras (free agent), Redmond (free agent)READ MORE: Opening Day Underway At The Big E
Offseason subtractions: Joe Thuney (free agent), Jermaine Eluemunor (free agent)
At first glance, the Patriots have a solid offensive line. And with Ted Karras capable of filling in anywhere on the interior plus Mike Onwenu’s versatility to slide to tackle if needed, they’re built to withstand injury, too.
Onwenu, of course, became the second-best sixth-round pick out of Michigan in Patriots franchise history last year, when he started all 16 games and took the second-most snaps out of anyone on the roster. (Only Thuney played more snaps.) He received an 84.3 Pro Football Focus grade, committing just one penalty all year and allowing three sacks, and in year two, he’s in line to take over at left guard for Thuney.
The return of Trent Brown is what makes that move possible, as the veteran tackle should be able to slide in on the right side. That’s not a certainty, though. Brown certainly underperformed on his big-money deal with the Raiders, ultimately leading to his return to New England. Additionally, the offense with Cam Newton is a whole lot different from the offense under Tom Brady, and Brown will be on the right side of the line this time. So he’ll be asked to do some different things than he did in 2018, when he replaced Nate Solder at left tackle and won a Super Bowl. At the very least, his perspective and enthusiasm for playing for the Patriots was evident in his offseason comments, and he’ll be playing for another contract. So the Patriots can feel reasonably good about what they’ll be getting out of the 6-foot-8, 380-pound Brown.
The biggest question mark on the starting line would be Isaiah Wynn. Since being drafted with the 23rd overall pick in 2018, he has played in just 18 of a possible 48 regular-season games. He tore his Achilles in his rookie season, missed half of the 2019 season with a toe injury, and missed six games last year with a knee injury. He’s been good when he has played, certainly capable of playing the position at the NFL level. But it’s been hard to properly evaluate him and his potential for growth, given all of the time missed.
With Cam Newton still the presumed starter at quarterback, this offensive line figures to be asked to roll through defenses on the ground, getting some help from fullback Jakob Johnson and the tight ends in that endeavor. With the influx of capable pass catchers — Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry at tight end, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne at receiver — the line can and should be doing some more work in pass protection this year compared to last.MORE NEWS: Sam Adams' Latest 28% 'Utopia' Beer Is $240, Illegal In 15 States
And for the umpteenth consecutive year, offensive line looks to be a position of strength for the Patriots heading into the season.