Back in June, we referenced a Yahoo! story from our pal Jason Cole ranking the Patriots’ offensive line second among all those in the NFL. And he did it with help from the folks at Football Outsiders, who strive to look at everything from as objective a place (read: statistically) as possible.
The guys at Pro Football Focus take a similar approach, and see the New England line in a similar light — ranking the Patriots third, based on their 2009 performance. Only the club’s AFC East rivals in New York and Miami come in higher. The Patriots came in fourth in both pass and run blocking, and 11th in penalties, with this comment from PFF.
This is an extremely balanced group that does most things well. It is also probably the best group of screen blockers around. Having said that, it was remarkable how quickly a strength like the defensive line became a real weakness and it’s possible, although much less likely, a similar thing could happen here.
PFF lauded Stephen Neal in particular and listed age and Logan Mankins’s contract situation as concerns, while adding that Sebastian Vollmer, Mark Levoir and Dan Connolly look promising, in their estimation.
One thing that’s interesting to note is, again, the “balance” thing. The Patriots have always thrived on it and we’ve discussed how Mankins’s ascension to the elite at his position tests the model. It’s an underlying theme, I believe, in that whole dispute.