Patriot Priorities For 2015: Offensive Line
There are a lot of differing opinions going around about what is the biggest need for the Patriots going into the 2015 draft. I have already addressed what I feel is the biggest need here.
I am also not convinced that a high pick at wide receiver is in the team's best interest either. Belichick has not faired as well as fans might like in drafting top-caliber talent for Tom Brady on the outside.
But when it comes to protecting Brady, the stakes are truly the highest. Here's an intersting pair of stats from 2014:
1. The Patriot's front line was ranked fifth in the league in sacks alllowed.
2. The same front line was ranked 16th in QB hits... no wonder Brady throws the ball away so much.
Here's the sad reality; The interior of the Patriot's offensive line was aweful. Brady most often faced pressure from the inside, meaning rookie Bryan Stork, and veterans Dan Connelly and Ryan Wendell were the weak links in that line.
Add in part-timers Jordan Devey, Josh Kline, and Marcus Cannon then, to put it bluntly, Brady deserver better. In fact, if Belichick wants Brady to play out his contract, then help is needed pronto!
Considering run-blocking as well, the Patriots were again much worse in between the guards than on the outside. The stats may not tell the whole story, but they say enough to cause concern for an offense trying to defend a title.
The only reason the Patriots were +14 in sack differential was Brady's ability to move within the pocket (when he had one), operating in the short-passing game, and the quality of his receivers. While that will be the offensive MO in 2015... again... it still isn't the preferred MO.
I will be extremely surprised if the Patriots don't draft a guard or a tackle who also plays guard. I think a pure guard is the answer, because tackle is not an issue. If they do not trade out of the first round, plenty of good, solid, power guards are in range.
I would expect the top three or four guards to be gone before the Patriots 32nd pick, so they will probably have Josue Matias from Floride State and A. J. Cann from South Carolina on their radar. Also, don't overlook Jeremiah Poutasi from Utah as a surprise pick. He is one of the bigger linemen and was also quicker than some better-known prospects.
Whether they go offensive line or defensive in the first round, guard will have to be a priority within their top two or three picks for sure.
Belichick apparently didn't see what he wanted in free agency, but part of me wonders if he isn't as down on his interior line as I am. But if the numbers from sources like pro football focus mean anything, he can't be set on that starting mix.
Just my two-cents, but how can he neglect a unit with so much questionable play both in the regular season and the playoffs? Both the running and passing attacks need a little help; the front line is the key to opening things up in 2015.