It's hard to understate Joe Thuney's value to the New England Patriots.
First of all, he's an All-Pro caliber left guard and has played a key role on two Super Bowl championship teams. His excellent work against elite Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in New England's Super Bowl LIII victory was particularly impressive.
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With starting center David Andrews ruled out with a hand injury that reportedly required surgery last week, Thuney stepped in and started at center against the Raiders. Thuney's performance in that role was excellent, and it drew praise from several of his teammates.
"We didn't have no issues, so it was great," Patriots quarterback Cam Newton said. "Smokin' Joe is a person who is very reliable on this offensive line. The moment wasn't too big for him to step right in to fill the shoes of (Andrews). So I was just excited that, to have anybody be replacing somebody, you'll want that transaction to be what it was."
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has been one of Thuney's teammates since the offensive lineman was drafted in 2016, also liked what he saw.
"Thuney is just showing everyone why he's one of our most dependable players," Edelman said. "To be able to go in and play center and switch it up and show his versatility and contribute in a huge way, that's Joe Thuney. I mean, knock on wood, but the guy's done it since he came in.”
The Patriots ran for a season-high 250 yards, along with two rushing touchdowns, in Sunday's win. Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, who scored both of those touchdowns on the ground, praised the team's offensive line after a few players, including Thuney, were thrust into different roles out of necessity.
“For Joe [Thuney] to switch positions to a position where you've got to make a ton of calls, and for him to step in right away and do it with ease was unbelievable," Burkhead said.
"He's one of the smartest football players I've definitely ever been around. One of the best linemen in the game. And for them to do that and to set the tone from the get-go in the running game was outstanding.”