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Patriots Bye-Week Breakdown: Offensive line

11.02.12 at 7:43 pm ET

With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots. We’€™ve looked at the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. Now, it’€™s the offensive line.

Overview: After what appeared to be a shaky preseason where everyone was waiting for Brian Waters to come walking back through the door, the New England offensive line has come together very nicely over the first half of the regular season. It hasn’€™t been without a few issues — they’€™d probably like the Seattle game back, like most of the offense — but overall, the group has done very well against some of the league’€™s elite pass rushers. In addition, they’€™ve been a big reason why the New England running game has had a resurgence this season. (Go back and watch Stevan Ridley‘€™s 41-yard run in the second half against the Rams — one of the most sharply executed plays of the year, right down to the picture perfect work on the blocking assignments up front.) Even without All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins for three games — Donald Thomas has filled in admirably — it’€™s been a very good start to the year for the New England offensive line.

(In retrospect, it was foolish to make broad-bush judgments on the play of the New England offensive line based on the preseason, particularly when you’€™re dealing with a line that had as many moving parts as the Patriots did over the spring and summer months. The coaching staff was in the process of making judgments on veterans like Robert Gallery and Dan Koppen, as well as trying to assess the rehab process for injured returnees like right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and Mankins. Bottom line? They were using their time trying to get a look at as many different groups in as many different stressful environments as possible, and they found out which combinations worked and which ones didn’€™t.)

Depth chart: Left tackle Nate Solder, Mankins, Thomas, guard/center/ tackle Nick McDonald, center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, tackle Marcus Cannon.

Best moment: So much good stuff came out of last Sunday’€™s game against the Rams, and that includes the performance of New England’€™s offensive line. Facing one of the better pass rushing duos in the league in Chris Long and Robert Quinn, the Patriots’€™ tackles were more than equal to the task. The win over the Rams marked the first game all year the New England offensive line did not yield a sack or a quarterback hit.

Worst moment:
Brady was sacked four times against the Cardinals and four times against the Broncos, but the low point was likely the loss to the Seahawks, where the quarterback was under fire all day thanks to pressure from the Seattle pass rush. Per Pro Football Focus, Tom Brady was hurried 10 times in that game, was hit four times and sacked once. While the numbers may not look it, Brady never appeared comfortable that game, and the offense line was a big reason why.

By the numbers:
According to Pro Football Focus, Wendell has played all 645 offensive snaps for the Patriots this season. He’€™s the only member of the New England offense not to miss a single play this season. (Solder is second overall with 644 snaps and Brady is third with 635.)

Money quote: ‘€œWe’€™re a 5-3 football team. As has been stated around here many times, you are what your record is. A lot of people wouldn’€™t want to be 5-3, we would like to be better than 5-3 but that’€™s what we are. What we need to do is have a great week this week and next week hopefully get to 6-3 and see where it goes. We have a tough opponent next week to do that though, so I don’€™t know how much it’€™s improved. That’€™s up to others to say, we just feel like we have to improve every day, or we’€™ll never get to where we want to be.’€ — Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia on how much the team has improved since Week 1.

Read More: bye week breakdown,



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