By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Has Joe Thuney ever played tight end? Linebacker, perhaps? Kicker?
After Sunday's 36-20 win over the Raiders, the Patriots must feel like they can depend on their starting left guard for anything. Thuney slid over from his usual position to center against the Raiders, and while the offense took some time to gel in the first half, by the second half it was humming. And not only were there no botched snaps, barely anything even looked slightly off with Thuney snapping the football.
The result was a dominant day for the Patriots on the ground, 250 yards on 38 carries, a 6.6-yard average. The Patriots scored points on six straight drives after a Cam Newton interception, while Newton took just two sacks for six yards on the day. Their biggest single play, a 48-yard run for Sony Michel, came as Thuney blocked at the second level to help open a massive hole for the running back.
Thuney could also be credited with only one pressure in pass protection, but it's easy to let that slide. He showed off his athleticism in the screen game and consistently created openings for the running backs. Most importantly, though, was the fact that the snaps were clean.
"We didn't have no issues, so it was great," Cam Newton said after the game. "Smokin' Joe is a person who is very reliable on this offensive line. The moment wasn't too big for him to step right in to fill the shoes of Dirty Dave. So I was just excited that, to have anybody be replacing somebody, you'll want that transaction to be what it was."
There's more responsibility at center than left guard. The communication increases between the center and the rest of the line. And of course, the snap. Thuney credited teammates David Andrews, James Ferentz, and Hjalte Froholdt with helping him work on his technique throughout the week. It wasn't the first tim he ever snapped a football, but the urgency certainly picked up as Andrews went to injured reserve with a broken thumb and Newton spoke on the importance of clean snaps.
“Just throughout the week, getting more and more reps - especially those shotgun plays, got to have a good tempo and good location," Thuney said. "Just wanted to do my part and do what I could.”
It's very in character for Thuney to make the transition look easy. He filled in as an emergency right tackle in last year's season opener and held his own. For the line to barely skip a beat with Thuney playing center for the first time in his career speaks to the veteran's versatility and willingness to play any role on the line, and his ability to execute regardless of the call.
"Joe's a great teammate. He'll do whatever he can to help the team win," Bill Belichick said. "Filling in for Dave, that's a big job. We just felt like that was the best combination we had for this particular game.We'll see how that goes going forward. We'll just take it week by week here. Collectively, the offensive line certainly held their own and did a good job here today."
Andrews will be out for at least the next two games after Sunday, meaning that the earliest he'll be back is Week 7 after the Patriots' bye. For now, it looks like the line is in good hands with Thuney snapping the ball. He's already done so many different things for that unit, so it's hardly surprising that the Patriots' master-of-all-trades added another skill.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at [email protected].