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The Patriots made their first move of the offseason by reacquiring former left tackle Trent Brown. Deciphering what that means for New England's future ease the path for whoever is the next quarterback, too.
The addition of Brown instantly shores up a New England offensive line bracing for the impending departure of guard Joe Thuney (and what would be a significant cap hit if he stayed in town). Should the Patriots re-sign center David Andrews, New England could conceivably send out a starting offensive line that looks something like this, as outlined by longtime Patriots beat reporter Mike Reiss:
The Patriots, as they usually do, figure to explore a variety of combinations on the o-line. This would be my best guess at what they currently view as the most likely option:— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 9, 2021
LT: Isaiah Wynn
LG: Mike Onwenu
C: David Andrews/free agent
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Trent Brown
That is a dominant offensive line. There would be health questions, as there always are up front, but if this unit could remain cohesive and in good health, the New England rushing offense could emerge even more dominant in 2021. While there have been other pieces adjusting in the time since Brown left following the Patriots' Super Bowl LIII victory, there's no denying the correlation to success that emerged from Brown's time protecting Tom Brady's blindside and setting the edge for New England's running backs:
|SEASON||RECORD||OFFENSIVE HOG INDEX||OFFENSIVE RUSHER RATING||REAL QBR||SACKS ALLOWED|
|2018||11-5||12.00 (9th)||102.22 (9th)||91.28 (6th)||19 (1st)|
|2019||12-4||15.33 (16th)||100.43 (12th)||80.37 (14th)||26 (3rd)|
|2020||7-9||7.67 (11th)||108.63 (7th)||80.00 (22nd)||37 (19th)|
The clear takeaway is that the 2018 offensive line, anchored by Brown, provided a far better mix of protection for the quarterback and aggressive run blocking. Perhaps most critically, it held opponents to an aggregate 19 sacks, fewest in the league and nearly half what the Patriots quarterbacks suffered in 2020.
Again, it's critical to note that these stats are hardly all Brown. The 2019 squad lost center David Andrews to injury and suffered other significant injuries that forced shifts across the line. The 2020 unit had to adjust to a new quarterback and system for the first time in two decades.
Still, the return of Brown, a man mountain on a one-year prove it deal yet again, could bode very well for whoever finds themselves under center at quarterback, as well as the different running backs the Patriots cycle through to provide defenses with various looks. It may not do enough to ease the rumbling concerns at the forefront of the minds of Patriots fans, but it's a start, and a good one.