After last week’s performance against the Dolphins, in which Tom Brady was sacked four times and the run game was held to a miserable 89 yard total, this weeks effort by the offensive line was a comparative breath of fresh air.

This was no coincidence, as the Vikings game brought about a personnel switch to a 6-man offensive line, allowing Stevan Ridley to rush for 101 yards (as well as 40 yards for Vereen) and held the pocket long enough for Brady to actually throw the ball, as he was sacked only once on the day. While it still was not perfect, there were certainly some notably improved performances, and the extra protection provided by the 6-man front enabled the Patriots to run the ball effectively and give the defense the rest it needed to play the dominant game that they did. So lets explore that 6-man line further.

The Patriots offensive line ranked 8th in pass-blocking efficiency this week according to Pro Football Focus, allowing only 3 QB hurries on 23 pass plays due in large part to some strong efforts up front.

Sebastian Vollmer was the star, as he allowed no pressure whatsoever on his side, achieving a 100% pass efficiency rating from the right-tackle spot. Fellow tackle Cameron Fleming spent the day lining up at tight-end. In fact, the rookie fourth-rounder played as many snaps as Rob Gronkowski, and put his versatility on full display, as he had a pass-blocking efficiency of 100% on three pass plays. These two guys were also impressive in the run-game, particularly Vollmer as he ranked 3rd among all tackles for run-blocking in Week 2. Fleming's performance was the reason for the success of the 6-man front in run-blocking, as his physical build and lineman playing-style allowed him to open up gaps for Ridley to dart through. Additional punch up front was also delivered by run-blocking specialists Michael Hoomanawanui and James Develin.

Despite some successes this week, the offensive line has plenty of areas for improvement, much like the rest of the offense according to Tom Brady. So far, the weak link in the chain has been Jordan Devey.

While he improved this week to an efficiency rating of -2.8, he couldn't have done much worse than last week's -4.2 in which he allowed six QB hurries. He will have to improve if he plans on keeping the starting job. Furthermore, the offensive line was culpable for six penalties against the Vikings, three of them courtesy of Nate Solder. This is the kind of thing that Belichick hates, and if it continues, expect to see some wholesale changes on the O-line.

It is clear that this unit is still finding it's feet, and nobody is really sure what the best combination of guys at certain positions is yet. While the 6-man front worked well against the Vikings, it may not work well against other teams. This is all part of the experimentation process, and the successes will certainly give Dave DeGuglielmo and the rest of the coaching staff some food for thought. While there are some signs of positivity, PFF still has the Patriots' offensive line ranked dead last in the league in pass-blocking efficiency, and the experimentation will have to yield strong results soon to ensure that this team maximises it's potential on the offensive side of the ball.

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Unknown 9/16/2014 07:41:00 PM Edit

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