Normally, I don't jump directly into sports talk radio banter, but since there really isn't a whole lot going on ... why not?
The trio at the controls of Felger & Mazz on Monday — Tony, Big Jim and Matt McCarthy — took issue, not with my power ranking of the Patriots, but with this sentence:
They could have the league’s best offensive line and secondary. That’s a great place to start.
All three of them, a) said I was contending the Patriots' offensive line IS the best in the league, and b) totally disagreed with that.
Well, I said the Patriots could have the league's best line, which means things have to go right ... it doesn't say they're likely to go right. It means we'll see how it goes.
And, yes, I firmly believe they can have the league's best line, certainly one of the best in the league. Since there isn't much going on, why don't we dive into this topic a little more, present some of the evidence, counter some of the arguments (many of which aren't all that bright ... bUt sCaR iS gOnE ... Patriots won a Super Bowl the last time he retired) and go through the exercise of actually ranking the top lines.
THE CASE FOR THE PATRIOTS
1. What needs to happen.
Look, I'll admit that some of this is a projection. But it always is, for every team (especially after a pandemic with a position group that can get out of shape in a hurry). But a realistic assessment of this group is as follows:
LT Isaiah Wynn (C+ BSJ grade last season): Finished 34th out of 82 tackles for PFF. Considering he basically missed a season and a half and a lot of practice, that was not bad at all. If he can stay healthy for everything, Wynn easily can be a top 15 tackle this season, and that's being conservative. Obviously health is an issue. TOP-15 PLAYER
LG Joe Thuney (A+ BSJ grade last season): He is unquestionably one of the best in the league at his position. TOP-5 PLAYER
C David Andrews (injured last season, B+ in 2018): Andrews was 8th out of 38 players in his last healthy season, and 4th out of 35 in 2017. If healthy, he's at least top 10. TOP-10 PLAYER
RG Shaq Mason (B- last season): Took a big step back last year from near-All Pro level, but did play better down the stretch. Word on the street is he and Marcus Cannon are out to make amends for last season. TOP-5 PLAYER.
RT Marcus Cannon (B- last season): PFF ranked him 36th out of 82 tackles (so right behind Wynn). He was sixth in 2016. He's really going to have show up in shape, ready to perform, or he's going to lose his job to someone. Hopefully that spurs him on to one last very good season. TOP-20 PLAYER.
2. You really have no idea how poor offensive line play is around the league.
People, like Tony, who instantly scoff at my assessments don't really watch line play around the league. Sure, the Patriots were rough on the line last year, but they still finished 10th in PFF's rankings. That's off a bad season. So if they're good, it's not that big of a jump to the top or near it.
Quick, which team has the best offensive line in the league?
Most would say the Cowboys on rep. But LT Tyron Smith is hurt all the time, and center Travis Frederick just retired. PFF went with the Eagles off last season, which I don't disagree with. But they also haven't re-signed Jason Peters and are going with an unproven second-year player. Kind of a big piece.
3. Other teams have lost big, important pieces.
The Patriots are returning everyone on the offensive line, and could pick up more should Wynn, Andrews, Mason and Cannon stay healthy and regain form.
Look at who the other top lines have lost just this offseason: