No more excuses for Cole Strange in 2023. He really struggled as a rookie in 2022, and Bill Belichick isn’t going to let the fact that he was a first-round pick put him above being replaced.
Strange got 17 starts despite easily being our worst interior offensive lineman last year, and that’s largely because the Pats just didn’t have any depth options to replace him. If they were going to have someone struggling there, why not give the first-round pick a chance to develop and gain experience.
But that clearly rubbed Belichick the wrong way. There’s a reason he spent two fourth-round picks and a fifth-round pick on offensive linemen.
Atonio Mafi didn’t exactly look game-ready in the preseason, but Belichick wouldn’t be rolling into the season with only one backup guard option unless one of two things was true: either he’s really high on Mafi, or he’s comfortable leaning on versatility of some of the other players in the unit to bump someone else over to guard if need be.
Strange did round into form dow notes stretch in his rookie year. His two highest single-game grades from PFF were in Weeks 14 and 18, and he earned pass blocking grades north of 80.0 I four of his last five. The consistency still wasn’t there though (he absolutely tanked against he Bengals in Week 16, and his three worst games were all still in the second half of the season), and that’s going to be something he needs to fix in 2023.
The most likely way for Strange to get benched is to repeat that inconsistency, but a truly awful game in Week 1 could greatly loosen his grip on the starting left guard role.