The first couple 2017 preseason games have finally been played! While these games don’t affect the standings and generally don’t matter to the average fan, those players who are on the roster bubble know that these in-game opportunities may be the best way to secure themselves a job for the upcoming year. I am going to use this time to break down the New England Patriots’ 90 man roster and continue to give my projections as to who will crack the 53-man roster. Today we’ll discuss the guards and centers. (Note: Since cut days are approaching quickly, I will be going slightly less in depth over the next few weeks as I cover the rest of the position groups.)
Long shot: Jason King
The return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia last season heralded better offensive line play overall as well as consistency in personnel, which started on the interior offensive line. After going through numerous combinations of personnel in 2015, starters Joe Thuney, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason appeared in all 16 games last season. Thuney, the Patriots’ third round draft pick last year, is looking to make a second-year jump after a decent rookie campaign last year at left guard. Third-year center David Andrews inked a contract extension a little while back, effectively guaranteeing him the starting gig for the next few seasons. While Andrews does struggle at times with interior pass rushers, he is a very cerebral player and works very well with quarterback Tom Brady. Third-year right guard Shaq Mason made a huge second-year jump last season, and will be looking to cement himself as a top 10 right guard this season. Mason was a dominant run blocker coming out of college, but has taken a big step forward in terms of his pass protection. He and right tackle Marcus Cannon effectively shut down the right side of the line by the end of last season.
Of the three players I have on the roster bubble, Karras is most likely to make the roster, Douglas is the most likely practice squad candidate, and Ferentz will likely only make the roster if the Patriots decide to carry a fifth interior offensive lineman. The Patriots only carried four guards and four tackles last year, and will likely continue to do so as they have a lot of young skill position players (Austin Carr, Jacob Hollister, etc.) who they will likely want to keep on the active roster. Karras did an adequate job filling in early last season for starter Shaq Mason, who was dealing with a hand injury at the time, and will likely be kept around as a backup at all three interior offensive line positions. Jamil Douglas will likely be on the practice squad and will serve as the ninth man — if one of the starters or backups suffer an injury, the Patriots will likely call up Douglas and have him serve as extra depth. James Ferentz, son of former Bill Belichick colleague Kirk Ferentz, is a decent backup center. However, as I pointed out earlier, the Patriots will likely not have a spot open to carry another offensive lineman. As for Jason King, he is likely only fighting for a practice squad spot at best.
Stay tuned to the Armchair All-Americans as I next discuss the Patriots’ defensive line.