It seems like every year, the New England Patriots are relevant in the Super Bowl hunt. So why is this the case? Continually having superior players? Tom Brady? Rob Gronkowski? Well, all of this helps, but what coach Bill Belichick and the Pats truly excel at is making masterful in-season changes that give them an edge in the Xs and Os.
This time around, it may be a unique offensive line change that’s helped New England rack up 119 points through three games so far. In these three contests, the Patriots have already used nine different O-line combinations. During a 51-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, they introduced a 10th line change that paved the way for LeGarrette Blount’s three touchdowns. When they played Pittsburgh in Week 1, they changed every O-line package until the sixth possession.
Their line switches look pretty basic to the naked eye. Most rotations happen at the guard spot, while three lineman – LG Shaq Mason, LG Josh Kline and RG Tre Jackson – have done plenty of shuffling. This isn’t the most-revolutionary thing to hit the league because most teams like to keep their linemen fresh by rotating them.
However, the key difference is that the Patriots are making these switches and sometimes going away from their best line combination. This differs greatly from other NFL teams because, as common logic would suggest, you want your best O-line combo on the field as much as possible. However, as Belichick is showing, there may be something to constantly tinkering with your lineup and confusing opponents, even if it’s your go-to lineup.
As the Boston Herald reports, these changes are certainly throwing wrenches in opposing teams’ plans. But while this is a nice byproduct of what New England is doing, the team’s offensive line coach, Dave DeGuglielmo, says that this isn’t simply a random occurrence done to cause confusion.
“It’s not done just randomly,” DeGuglielmo said. “There’s a specific reason why we rotate guys when we do, where we rotate them. There’s a rhyme and reason to everything.”
This is all DeGuglielmo would give up, which only makes sense given that he coaches for the always secretive Patriots. But one concrete reason why the team might be doing what they are is because Mason and Jackson are rookies, while Kline is a third-year player. Shuffling them in different lineups allows the young players to get extra in-game coaching and also keep them fresh.
Another thought is that Belichick could still be trying to figure out what his best line combo is several games into the regular season. After all, he’s got plenty of youngsters on the line that he needs to evaluate.
Whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that what they’re doing is working. New England is off to a dominating 3-0 start, and they’re early favorites to win the AFC. Assuming the outstanding line play continues, then it’s not so hard to see the Patriots gunning for their second-straight Super Bowl title.