New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has found several quality offensive lineman in the middle to late rounds of the NFL Draft, and Joe Thuney is one of the best examples.
Thuney has established himself as a key member of the Patriots o-line as the starting left guard for all of his three seasons in New England. The 2016 third-round pick was one of the Patriots' most important players in their Super Bowl LIII victory, where he helped slow down elite Los Angeles Rams pass rusher Aaron Donald.
You cannot explain Thuney's true value without mentioning his versatility. The North Carolina State product is able to play just about every position along the offensive line, and with the Patriots losing both starting tackles to injuries over the last two weeks, Thuney's versatility has become a huge asset for Belichick.
"Very valuable. Somebody has to have versatility on that group," Belichick told reporters Tuesday. "If you take seven linemen to the game, you can't have a backup for every position, so somebody has to move. Either one of your starters has to move or your two backups have to cover all five spots in some combination of that. We need somebody that can do that and Joe's our most versatile lineman on the team, so that is an important role for us to have in terms of maintaining our depth with the group."
The latest blow to the Patriots offensive line came Tuesday, when starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury. He isn't eligible to return for eight weeks. New England also lost starting right tackle Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in Week 1, and he missed Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots signed free agent offensive linemen Marshall Newhouse and Caleb Benenoch over the last two weeks to bolster their depth, and both of them are options at the tackles spots.
Left tackle is one of the most important positions on the field. This player protects quarterback Tom Brady's blind side and regularly goes up against the league's best pass rushers. Thuney's familiarity with the offense and overall skill set make him a logical fit at left tackle while Wynn is out, and the Patriots could always shift guys around once Newhouse and Benenoch are more comfortable with the playbook.
Replacing a player like Wynn is going to be difficult for the Patriots, but it's nice to have lineman such as Thuney who can fill in at several spots and perform at a high level playing out of position. He's one of the most valuable Patriots players not named Tom Brady.
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