The New England Patriots have been trying to switch to a new scheme this offseason that involves a much different look and feel for 99 percent of the offensive line.
With departures of Ted Karras, Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney over the last few years, there are some legitimate concerns up front.
But in the 2021 NFL draft, New England selected Cole Strange, the most athletic lineman in the draft who should ultimately thrive in the new scheme and put at least a few of those concerns to bed.
The Patriots have been struggling to implement the new scheme, but enough harping on that. Let’s take a look at the season outlook, after the initial 53-man roster was set.
Who is on the roster?
LT Trent Brown
LG Cole Strange
C David Andrews
RG Mike Onwenu
RT Isaiah Wynn
IOL Chasen Hines
T Justin Herron
G/T Yodny Cajuste
I ultimately feel that the Patriots have a lot of talent across this O-line. If the group can stay healthy, they could find themselves in the top handful of their position group. Cole Strange should be fun to watch in a full game with the starters, but I am more curious if someone like Chasen Hines can crack the roster.
I have my doubts with Isaiah Wynn, as he’s still struggling to stay healthy. Hines could take over at right guard, which would slide Mike Onwenu back to his better position, right tackle. If New England thinks they have a diamond in the rough with the 2021 sixth-round pick, they could opt to move Wynn’s bloated contract to a tackle-needy team.
The play that we would see from Wynn is less than what Onwenu gives you. So I could see a move involving Wynn, which would allow undrafted rookie free agent Kody Russey to be recalled from the practice squad to develop as the Ted Karras, pinch center/guard reserve.
The strengths of this group is that they are all talented NFL players at least in the sense to avoid a revolving door situation. This isn’t going to be a case where guys are constantly coming in and out of the lineup.
People might be singing to the tune of doom and gloom, but the Patriots actually have a strong starting offensive line group.
When I say Wynn gives less than Onwenu, that is more of a praise of his skills than a doubt of Wynn’s. Another strength is chemistry and system knowledge.
If New England wants to revert to base plays, they have the skills and have been here long enough to seamlessly switch.
The weakness of this group comes down more to the scheme being implemented. Even if we are tired of hearing it, it’s not that they can’t do it, it’s that they aren’t doing it at this time. They need a little more work, but I think they’re still one of the top 15 groups at worst as of today.
The only spot that is a weakness is true depth. Ted Karras always provided value by being ready to jump in the game. Chasen Hines, James Ferentz and Kody Russey all have the potential to fill in there, but time will tell if they’re truly capable.