New England Patriots offensive line has to step up in week 3

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Marcus Cannon
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Marcus Cannon /

The New England Patriots will need a healthy, strong offensive line to stop J.J. Watt and the rest of the Houston Texans on Sunday.

J.J. Watt is going to be a problem for the New England Patriots this week in Foxboro as they take on the Houston Texans. The offensive line is going to have to be at their very best to protect Tom Brady.

Watt has a finger injury, but for the most part, he’s healthy. He hasn’t been when his team has faced the Patriots for a long time. Watt even drew comparisons to Lawrence Taylor from Bill Belichick.

That may be the highest praise Belichick has ever given an opponent.

"“Motor, effort, strength, quickness, instincts, the ability to make game-changing plays at critical times in the game, knowing when the big play — critical third-down or fourth-quarter play or red-area play, knowing those critical plays in the game,” Belichick said. “As good as Taylor would play all game, that was the time when he would play at his best. … (Watt) is a force out there. He’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best players I’ve ever coached against.”"

Unfortunately for the Patriots, right tackle Marcus Cannon did not participate in practice yesterday thanks to a concussion. If Cannon is unable to play on Sunday, Tom Brady could be in for a long night on the ground. Cannon’s backup Cameron Fleming would likely step into the starting lineup, though LaAdrian Waddle could as well.

We have to remember though that Watt is not the only problem for the New England Patriots line. They will also have to deal with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus rushing the passer.

In the Divisional game last season, which New England managed to win, the Texans may have found a recipe for success. To prevent Brady from stepping up in the pocket, they placed their best pass rushers in the middle of the line. That forced one-on-one matchups and the pressure continued to get to TB12 all night. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows Houston will do everything they can to disrupt Tom Brady and the offense.

"More from New England PatriotsFormer Patriot Stevan Ridley Put Kevin Hart in a Wheelchair3 Patriots Who Can Clinch a Roster Spot in Final Preseason GamePatriots Get Win Over Division Rivals Before Season Even BeginsNew Massachusetts Sportsbook Promos: $450 Bonus to Bet on Your Patriots at Caesars + DraftKingsEzekiel Elliott Reveals 3 Reasons Why He Signed With Patriots“It’s definitely a fad right now and people are using different alignments and different spacing on their defensive fronts to try to create some type of disruption for the offense, whether that be blitz pickup, matchups that they feel are in their advantage, or try to attack the protection system if they feel like they know what that is,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “So it’s all predicated on trying to create either confusion or pressure, and if they can do both, then that’s kind of exactly what they’re looking for. Some teams have had more success than others across the league.”"

The Patriots will need to play at their very best on the offensive line to control the line of scrimmage and defeat the Texans. That’s why the Cannon concussion news is not good news at all. He’s become the best lineman for New England, and he’ll certainly be missed if he can’t play.

Watt, Whitney, and Clowney are all going to be coming hard to hit quarterback Tom Brady, so an established run game could be critical on Sunday. The success of the run will depend on the push the offensive line can generate for James White, Mike Gillislee, and Dion Lewis. RB Rex Burkhead also did not participate in yesterday’s practice, along with TE Rob Gronkowski.

Next: Houston Texans by the numbers

New England’s offense is already thin at wide receiver, so any other offensive losses become magnified. Gronk, Cannon, and Burkhead will all need to be healthy and ready to go on Sunday for the Patriots to be the very best team that they can be. The week 3 game will kickoff at Gillette Stadium on Sunday at 1 PM. By then, we should know a lot more about who’s going to be playing a key role.