It would be a shame if Tom Brady spent all this time fighting to play a full season with the Patriots only to spend it running for his life from hungry defensive ends.
Brady is obviously the most important player on the Patriots. They go as he goes. That’s usually how it is for most teams – you’re only as good as your quarterback. (Take the rest of the AFC East for example.)
And that’s why protecting him is always a top priority.
In the Patriots' first preseason game against the Packers, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked not one, not two, not three . . . but seven times. You can’t put that solely on the offensive line – and Bill Belichick didn’t – but the group is at least partially responsible.
That’s why there is a preseason, though. With dependable veteran Dan Connolly calling it career, a mixture of some proven vets and young linemen with plenty to learn remain.
The Patriots went out and drafted two offensive lineman in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft in Florida State’s Tre’ Jackson and Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason. Both rookies are getting plenty of reps during camp and both started against Green Bay, at right guard and left guard, respectively.
Belichick said that getting the young linemen reps and seeing what they can do has been a focus.
“I think at this point in camp for all players, not any particular player and not any particular group, we’re going to see mistakes,” Belichick said. “We’re going to see things that aren’t the way we want them to be. The players will have that pointed out to them by the coaching staff on their technique or what was done improperly or how we need to do it better. We’ll see where that goes from here and whether that improves or not.”
Jackson played with Patriots center Bryan Stork at Florida State, so there’s already a bit of a familiarity between the two. Mason played in a Georgia Tech offensive system that is extremely run-heavy. Mason will need to improve on pass protection, but is already ahead in the running game.
“The bottom line is he’s a smart kid, he learns well, he’s made great progress,” Belichick said of Mason. “We’ll see where it goes, but he’s certainly starting at a lot higher point than Stephen Neal, just to pick a name. So, it’s all relative.”
Tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer both return to the Patriots O-line and provide a veteran presence on the outside.
Depth could be an issue for this unit as linemen Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, and John Kline still have more to prove as well.
Automatics: Nate Solder, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer, Cameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Tre' Jackson, Shaq Mason
On the bubble: Josh Kline, Jordan Devey
The others: Chris Barker, Caylin Hauptmann David Andrews, Mark Asper, Ryan Groy