Grading Each Position Group: Offensive Line and Special Teams

The upcoming NFL season feels like the beginning of a new era for the New England Patriots. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Patriots will be entering a season with a new starting quarterback. While we wait for the return of an uncertain NFL season, we decided to grade every position group on the roster as it stands right now. In part two we cover the offensive line and special teams. Part one of the series covering the skill positions can be found here.

Grading:
  • A = High-level starters with good depth
  • B = Good group, only a few concerns
  • C= Not sure what to expect and a number of questions
  • D = Very little talent at the position
Tackle:

Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham, Justin Herron

When healthy, Marcus Cannon and Isaiah Wynn are high-end starters. The problem is both are frequently injured. Wynn has only played 8 games in his first two seasons. Even though Cannon played 15 games last season, he struggled with the flu and nagging injuries throughout the season. The Patriots had to rely on Marshall Newhouse to step in and play significant snaps last season. As long as the Patriots can keep Wynn and Cannon on the field, the tackle play will significantly improve from last season.

The depth behind the starters is promising but unproven. The backup with the most experience is Korey Cunningham. The Patriots traded a sixth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals last season for Cunningham. Although Cunningham has the most experience among the backups, he’s only played two full seasons in the NFL. Cunningham isn’t a lock to make the roster, but he has a good opportunity to be the swing tackle.

Behind Cunningham, the Patriots have Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron. We were big believers in the Cajuste selection a year ago– and a year later and we are still excited to see him take the field. Cajuste missed his entire rookie season on the non-football injury list. We expect Cajuste to make the roster and backup multiple positions on the offensive line. The Sixth-round pick, Herron, rounds out the tackle position. We see Herron as a guard, but with the lack of tackle depth, it’s possible the Patriots see what he can do at tackle. He’ll have to beat out Cunningham to make the roster.

The tackle position has two talented starters, but the lack of depth means they can’t afford any injuries. It’s possible the Patriots add a couple players to the position over the next few months.

Grade: B

Guard:

Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor, Michael Onwenu, Najee Toran, Hjalte Froholdt

The guards are the strength of the Patriots offensive line. Left guard, Joe Thuney, is one of the best guards in the NFL. The Patriots elected to franchise tag him this offseason. As of now, it doesn’t look like the Patriots will trade him. With Thuney back in the fold, he’ll team up with Shaq Mason once again.

Mason had an interesting 2019 season. At times last season, Mason struggled. Some of the struggles, particularly the run blocking, were uncharacteristic. It felt like Mason was playing injured at some points last season, but even if it was just bad play, we think he turns it back around this season. While 2019 was a down year for Mason, he wasn’t horrible; he just didn’t play up to his normal level. In a season where the run game will be crucial to moving the football, the Patriots are in a good spot with two exceptional guards.

The best part about Thuney and Mason is their ability to stay on the field; particularly Thuney, who hasn’t missed a game in four seasons. However, depth is still important. The depth at guard is similar to the depth at tackle, promising but unproven. Jermaine Eluemunor is the most experienced backup. Eluemunor has three NFL seasons under his belt. He was traded from the Ravens to the Patriots last season, but he only played sparingly.

Michael Onwenu will likely be competing with Eluemunor for a roster spot. Onwenu was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. We love his game–he’s a mauler with great size. With little proven depth behind the starters, Onwenu has a great chance at a roster spot. We wrote about Onwenu here.

Najee Toran will also be competing for a roster spot, but we see him more as a practice squad guy. The last guard on the roster is Hjalte Froholdt. A fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Froholdt should be a roster lock. Froholdt missed his entire rookie season with an injury. He’s raw and will need to show a lot of growth before he takes the field. As we said with the tackles, it’s likely the Patriots add another veteran guard in free agency. Because Thuney and Mason are so durable, the guards deserve an A.

Grade: A

Center:

David Andrews, Dustin Woodard

David Andrews back on the field will be a welcomed sight. Andrews missed the entire 2019 season due to blood clots in his lungs. In his absence, the Patriots started Ted Karras at center. Karras signed with the Dolphins in the offseason. In April, Andrews announced he’s been cleared to play football. The return of Andrews will be a significant upgrade at the center position, especially in the run game.

There’s no clear backup behind Andrews at center. Dustin Woodard is the only other center on the roster. Woodard was selected in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft, and is by no means a roster lock. Versatility will be Woodard’s calling card. Woodard can play both center and guard. Backing up more than one offensive line position gives you increased odds of making the roster. Being the only other center on the roster also helps his cause. The Patriots will need a backup center with the uncertainty of Andrews’s health. Woodard and Andrews both had similar profiles coming out of college; we cover it in-depth here. The center position is solid, but gets a B due to Andrews’s health and the lack of a proven backup.

Grade: B

Special Teams:

Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Justin Rohrwasser

Jake Bailey had a strong rookie season. He flamed out a little towards the end of the year, but he was booting it most of the season. We expect him to build off that in year two. Long snapper Joe Cardona, has been consistently good since being drafted in 2015. There is no reason to be concerned about the long snapper position.

After a tumultuous season with kickers, the Patriots addressed the position in the fifth round of the draft. Justin Rohrwasser out of Marshall was the pick. Rohrwasser was a bit inconsistent throughout his college career. In 2018, he made only 71% of his kicks, but in 2019 he made 86% of his kicks. Let’s hope he hovers around 86% in his NFL career. The lack of certainty at kicker brings the grade down to a B.

Grade: B

Let us know your grades in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Grading Each Position Group: Offensive Line and Special Teams

  • June 11, 2020 at 4:03 pm
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    Pats offensive line doesn’t always get the credit they deserve. The by-product of quick throws in the past being the main reason. But when they need to run, they typically are successful. Good to acknowledge the beef eatters!!

    Reply

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