When David Andrews was placed on injured reserve Friday, there was some question as to who would replace him at center, as there isn’t an obvious back up on the roster.
And then when James Ferentz was signed to the active roster Saturday, it appeared it would be him as he has experience at the position with the team. But, then roughly an hour before the game, Joe Thuney warmed up as the starting center, which carries throughout the game.
The Patriots decided to go with their best five linemen and moved Thuney to center and rookie Michael Onwenu to left guard, instead of only changing one spot.
The move paid off, as the offensive line was outstanding in the 36-20 win over the Raiders, paving the way for 250 yards on the ground with Thuney leading the way.
“We didn’t have no issues, so it was great,” Cam Newton said via video conference 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.”
Thuney did play center in a 2016 preseason game, but he hadn’t in a real game until Sunday.
Rex Burkhead was one of the beneficiaries, as he ran for 49 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 49 yards and a touchdown receiving.
“For Joe to switch positions to a position where you've got to make a ton of calls, and for him to step in right away and do it with ease was unbelievable,” he said. “He's one of the smartest football players I've definitely ever been around. One of the best linemen in the game. And for them to do that and to set the tone from the get-go in the running game was outstanding.”
With Andrews landing on injured reserve, he will need to miss at least the next two games. It’s unclear if the team will go with the same alignment next Sunday against the Chiefs, but it clearly worked Sunday against the Raiders.
“Joe’s a great teammate,” Bill Belichick said. “He’ll do whatever he can to help the team win. 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. I’ll have to look at the film and take a look at each play and so forth.”