This is a follow-up article to my previous article called “Super Bowl 51 analysis (A look at the team’s QBs, RBs, and WRs” which I suggest you all check out before or after reading this article. This article I will be going over the Tight Ends, and Offensive linemen of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, who will be playing in Houston this Sunday for the Lombardi Trophy.
The New England Patriots use their group of tight ends almost every offensive down, and that position is one of the biggest keys to New England’s success. The Falcons don’t use their tight ends as much. Since the Falcons lost Tony Gonzalez because of retirement, they have never found the perfect replacement. They have used tight ends such as Levine Toilolo and Jacob Tamme in past seasons, but have yet to find a tight end as capable as Gonzalez.
Over the offseason, the New England Pats acquired Martellus Bennett in a trade with the Chicago Bears. Martellus Bennett was expected to be the backup tight end to Rob Gronkowski, and occasionally play in two tight end sets.
That plan changed when Rob Gronkowski went down with numerous injuries over the course of this season, eventually having his season end due to a herniated disk. However, Gronk was unproductive in the time he has played, most likely due to the injuries. Martellus Bennett shined in Gronk’s absence, consistently giving his quarterback Tom Brady a viable option at the tight end spot. Martellus Bennett scored 7 times this season on 55 caught passes. The big man also gained 701 yards through the air. Bennett, who was thought to be a top tier tight end in 2014, had a down year in 2015, but has certainly picked himself up in 2016. Bennett is now a key contributor in a Patriot’s offense that has dominated every week. In case the Patriots were looking to go another way from injury prone tight end Rob Gronkowski, they could feel safe knowing they got an elite tight end in Martellus Bennett as a replacement.
The Falcon’s tight ends have struggled a lot over the course of this 16 game NFL season. The Falcons have started three different tight ends this season, who were Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo, and Austin Hooper. In the past few games, the Falcons have rolled with young tight end Austin Hooper, who is a rookie this year. Hooper is expected to get the start come Super Bowl Sunday, but is definitely not as good as Martellus Bennett.
The Patriots offensive line is PFF’s number 10 offensive line in the league, which is a respectable number for a top-tier team like the Patriots. The whole offensive line starts with left tackle Nate Solder, who has played with the Patriots for longer than any other starting offensive linemen. Solder was around for Super Bowl 49, in which they defeated the Seahawks. The only other member of this starting five of the offensive line who enjoyed the Super Bowl 49 victory is 2016 2nd team All-Pro right tackle Marcus Cannon. Cannon and Solder’s pass protection this season has been stupendous, and we shouldn’t expect anything less this Sunday. The starting center for the Patriots is expected to be David Andrews. The starting right guard is expected to be Shaq Mason. The starting left guard is expected to be Joe Thuney, who is a rookie this year. Thuney has exceeded expectations this year, and has proved himself to be a solid run blocker and a decent pass blocker.
The Falcon’s offensive line is PFF’s number 6 offensive line, so we can expect that the front 5 for the Falcon’s will be able to outmatch the Patriot’s mediocre defensive line. The leader of this offensive line is clearly Alex Mack, who has been selected to the pro bowl 4 times in his career. Mack was signed by the Falcons on a five-year deal in the 2016 offseason after playing his entire career with the Browns. At guard, the Falcons are going to go with Chris Chester at right guard and Andy Levitre at left guard. Levitre was acquired by the Falcons from the Tennessee Titans in 2015 for two draft picks. This trade has paid off as you can see due to the fact that Levitre has contributed to this team, which may be holding up the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday. The Falcons have one of the best group of tackles in the league. Jake Matthews, former 1st round pick, is expected to start at left tackle. Jake Matthews has played his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons. At right tackle, the Falcons plan to start Ryan Schraeder, who is questionably the best right tackle in the league!