In the lead-up to training camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the offensive line.
Locks: Isaiah Wynn (LT); Joe Thuney (LG); David Andrews (C); Shaq Mason (RG); Marcus Cannon (RT)
Bubble: Jermaine Eluemanor (G); Michael Onewu (G); Justin Herron (T/G); Hjalte Froholdt (G); Yodny Cajuste (T); Korey Cunningham (T)
In the Mix: Najee Toran (G); Dustin Woodard (C/G)
ANALYSIS: With David Andrews expected to return to action and Joe Thuney signed to the Franchise Tag, the Patriots will welcome back their starting five offensive linemen this season. Isaiah Wynn at left tackle is the only significant change for this group since 2016 and they should provide the new starting quarterback with experienced, quality protection.
As always, health is a huge factor and something that played a big part in 2019. If the starting five stays on the field, this could be one of the best lines in the league. But with unproven depth, things could get interesting quickly if injuries strike as they did last season.
The swing back-up positions are wide open, with the third tackle spot being a significant role that is up for grabs. Jermaine Eluemanor and Korey Cunningham might be the veteran favorites for those jobs, but behind them are an unproven group of rookies and second-year players who will push them. Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt missed their rookie seasons with injuries, their development will be something to keep an eye on.
2020 late-round draft picks Michael Onewu, Justin Herron and Dustin Woodard all offer some versatility and will be in the mix for interior back-up roles, while Najee Toran spent his rookie season in 2018 on the 49ers practice squad and this past season on the Patriots practice squad, two years of experience that could boost his chances of making the team again.
Not much is certain beyond the starting five and the Patriots could benefit from one of their younger players stepping up and seizing a job, especially at the tackle spot. Beyond the starters there are a whole lot of unknowns, further complicated by Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement this offseason.
But those starters have a high ceiling and will be counted on as a vital part of a huge offensive transition.