The bad news came funneling in last Sunday morning for the New England Patriots. Less than two and a half weeks into the NFL’s pre-season, the Patriots are already down a starting offensive lineman in Sebastian Vollmer and their starting running back in Dion Lewis.
First, Vollmer. In my opinion, this one is significantly worse for the Patriots. Last season, New England’s offensive line play became their achilles heel down the stretch and received most of the blame for the AFC Championship loss in Denver. To ail these woes, the Patriots brought back former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchi in the offseason to drill a, what would appear to be at the time, fully healthy five-man unit back into shape.
Now with Vollmer out due to a hip injury, the Patriots and Scarnecchi turn to (brace yourself…no seriously, sit down for this news) Marcus freaking Cannon. Would not be surprised to see Scarnecchi turn to rookie Joe Thuney if Cannon struggles early. Even though Thuney is listed as a guard, he played multiple positions along the line in his 41 career games at North Carolina State.
Watching Cannon and counterpart in sulkiness Cameron Fleming try and block the likes of Ndamukong Suh in the Patriots Week 17 match up with the Miami Dolphins was truly cringeworthy. Absolutely putrid. And this season it doesn’t get any easier. The Patriots have the Arizona Cardinals and their tenacious defensive line in Week 1 followed by the same underrated Miami Dolphins D-line in Week 2. The offensive line will have their hands full from the get-go.
Lastly, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is also a shot that the Patriots just go ahead and release Vollmer who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
We all hoped this wouldn’t be the case, but we really knew in the back of our heads that this was a very real possibility. The fact that Dion Lewis might not come back at full strength. Well, it now looks like he might not even be coming back anytime soon as he needs to have another surgery on his knee to get it “cleaned out.” Aside from that being a disgusting phrase, it seems like the surgery will not be season-ending for Lewis and we should see the versatile running back on the field in about two months.
For the time being, the Patriots will turn, as they did for most of last season, to LeGarrette Blount and James White to handle the ground game duties. Normally, I wouldn’t be concerned because the Patriots very rarely rely on the run game, but who knows what the Patriots offense will look like with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm.
Add the Lewis and Vollmer injuries to the list that continues to grow and change everyday (Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Shaq Mason). Everyone continues to talk about how spectacular this Patriots offense will be and how the defense has significantly improved. Would hate to see yet another season get derailed by the ruthless injury bug.