The Miami Dolphins’ and New England Patriots’ offensive lines are what we thought they were. The New York Jets’ and Buffalo Bills’ offensive lines aren’t.
Patriots succeeding despite injuries, Jets struggling
The Jets and the Patriots entered the season with two of the best offensive trench units in the league. New England’s line has produced accordingly, allowing only three sacks and 11 hits on quarterback Tom Brady thus far. Brady is hit only 8 percent of the time he drops back into the pocket. The Patriots' ability to protect Brady has been impressive given injuries and shuffling on the line, including the addition of Brian Waters the week before the season and Dan Connolly making the shift to center.
The Jets, however, have allowed nine sacks in their first three games, and quarterback Mark Sanchez is hit on 11.7 percent of dropbacks, though New York has seen some changes in their front five with center Nick Mangold's injury and Wayne Hunter’s taking over the full-time right tackle spot. The Jets finished the 2010 season eighth in fewest sacks allowed and third in fewest QB hits.
Bills seeing dramatic improvement in OL play
The Bills’ line has improved leaps and bounds from last year and, despite preseason concerns, has proven its effectiveness. Buffalo’s line allowed quarterbacks to be hit 17 percent of the time they dropped back last year and were fifth-worst in the league in QB hits. Their line has cut that percentage nearly in half, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been hit less than 10 percent of the time. Buffalo has given up only two sacks so far this year.
“They’ve done a tremendous job,” Fitzpatrick told the media after their come-from-behind victory over the Patriots. “I can’t say enough about those guys. They’re putting in so much work during the week, just working together. All five of them have to be on the same page working together and I think that’s probably the biggest thing is they’re doing a great job together."
Dolphins so-so in protection, again
Miami, on the other hand, after finishing last year in the middle of the pack in terms of offensive line production, has had some major issues up front so far this season. The Dolphins have allowed the fifth-most sacks and QB hits through three games, giving up hits on quarterback Chad Henne nearly 19 percent of the time he drops back.
“We’ve been getting him hit too much and (forcing him) to scramble,” left tackle Jake Long told the media recently. “We’ve got to keep working on holding our blocks longer and not collapsing the pocket. When we give Chad time and let our receivers get open, we can do damage."