Going into the 2017 NFL season the Patriots once again look like far and away the class of the NFL. After all, they just won their second Super Bowl in three seasons. In addition, they went on an offseason shopping spree that would make it seem like they won just two games last season. Let alone having lost just two games last year.
However, one thing no one knows for certain is how anything will unfold past this upcoming season. Specifically at the quarterback position. For all the talk about how well Tom Brady has performed at 39 last season, he just turned 40. At some point, Brady will face a decline. For now, it would be foolish to bet against Brady considering how well he played last year. But should that decline happen sooner than later, the Patriots are well positioned to be among the top offenses for awhile.
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Everyone knows that in addition to having a great quarterback you need good protection. That is where Belichick, Caserio, and co. have set the Patriots up well for the future. Consider that last year four out of the five offensive linemen for the Patriots were rated as above average by Pro Football Focus. The only one not rated close to or above an 80 grade was left guard Joe Thuney. A rookie who should only improve with a full season under offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia.
In addition to the great year, the offensive line had last year is the fact that every starter on the line aside from Nate Solder is locked up for the next two years. Thuney, Andrews, and Cannon are locked up through at least 2019. Furthermore, the Patriots drafted two tackles, Antonio Garcia and Conor McDermott, who rated highly among draft gurus as solid long-term prospects with the right seasoning. Thankfully no one is better at that than Scarnecchia. He should have Garcia ready to roll by 2018 should Solder not be brought back.
One problem that could present itself is the lack of interior depth. However, with Ted Karras as a backup on the line who can play any of the five positions, the need is softened slightly. Even saying that one would expect the Patriots actively try and stash a young guard or interior lineman on their practice squad to try and develop during the season. Or perhaps even draft one in the later rounds next year as a developmental prospect.
Even with the light numbers at guard, the Patriots are set up well to keep their quarterback upright. Giving them the time to develop and see the field, while also having a dynamic run game with an extremely young and athletic offensive line. No matter what happens the next few years one thing is for sure: the Patriots may lose Brady or other pieces, but Belichick has once again planned well for the future. That, unfortunately for other AFC teams, means this run is unlikely to conclude for a while.