An NFL team could spend top dollar to bring in a franchise QB, Pro Bowl receivers, or stud running backs, but if there’s no time to get them the ball when it’s snapped, then it’s all pretty pointless.
That’s where the offensive line comes in. The least glorified position of them all, the o-line’s main job is to protect the team’s most prized possession, in the Patriots’ case - Tom Brady.
Brady has gone on record to say that he could see himself playing into his 40s. If that is to happen, he’ll need some of the best protection out there. Luckily for him, he’s got that. Brady may have to worry about the receivers he’s throwing to, but it’s unlikely that he’s got any doubts about the line protecting him.
Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, and Sebastian Vollmer – all starters last season on the line – look to go into the season as starters once again. Third-year right guard/tackle Marcus Cannon may make the biggest leap though, as it appears that he could take over the right guard position from Dan Connolly, who can play multiple interior positions on the line as a backup.
Cannon is listed at 6-foot-5, 358 pounds, and with him out there you can expect to see the Patriots turn to the running game even more than last season, when they ran it 523 times (second highest in the NFL) and scored a league-leading 25 touchdowns from the ground.
The line has also done its job in keeping Brady off his butt when he does drop back to pass. Brady was sacked just 27 times last season, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL, and he was knocked down 67 times – tied for 11th fewest.
We’ve seen Brady panic at times when the pocket closes on him, so the importance of the o-line can’t be overstated. He sees the whole offense coming along as the team gets deeper into camp.
“I think a lot of guys are trying to create roles for themselves, so there’s a lot of opportunity and every time you get the chance to take a rep you’re trying to do better than you did the previous time,” Brady said. “There are a lot of moving parts right now, so the tempo is important, the personnel is important, getting the formations right, running the right play or using the right technique – all those things are little things that become big things.”