Patriots hope they’re up front with their success

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The wise old football philosophers have this saying, that football is all about two things: Blocking and tackling.

There’s a lot of analysis as to what will be important for the New England Patriots to get back to the Super Bowl this year. The quarterback, his receivers, who will make the plays in the secondary.

But remember, the offensive line blocks, and the defensive line tackles. Quarterback Tom Brady has a new protector this year in 6-8, 380-pound left tackle Trent Brown. As long as Brady was in during Thursday night’s 37-20 preseason win over the Eagles, TB 12’s debut, Brown was right there with him.

“We’ve had such great players at that position, Matt and Nate for an extended period of time,” Brady said. “You wish you could keep all the guys together but that’s just not the case. Trent has come in and really gained everyone’s trust how he’s approached that particular spot that he’s in. He did a great job (on Thursday night). He’s working hard to get better, that whole unit up front, we rely so much on them to set the tone, run game, pass game.

“We’re going to need them to all be at their best. I love that group, and the effort that they’re putting in.”

Now what about the tackling? The Patriots had eight sacks agains the Eagles, including a big strip sack by eight year veteran and off-season addition Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn has the tough job of going up against Brown day-in, day-out in practice.

“It’s like trying to go through a wall,” Clayborn said. “He’s a big boy. He’s done a good job, though. … Bigger than I thought. He’s even bigger out of pads.”

And going up against Brown, Clayborn said, makes the entire defensive line better. It ought to.

“Yeah for sure,” Clayborn said. “You have a great left tackle like him, it makes the size of the (other team’s lineman) person you’re going against a little bit easier.”

The preseason parade continues. There’s a lot of focus on who may stick and who won’t, but a lot of that speculation has eyes on the skill people, not the beef. Veteran wideout Eric Decker didn’t get any Brady time the other night and couldn’t corral the one pass backup Brian Hoyer threw him. Veteran defensive back Jason McCourty got badly beat on an Eagles TD in the first half. Neither could be around in two weeks.

But in the trenches,that’s where the test of survival takes place. And the offensive and defensive lines are pushing each other quite a bit. One makes the other better.

“Without a doubt,” Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers said. “We have to. We practice against each other hard. A product of what we did (vs. Philadelphia) is because of them. And vice-versa. That’s why it’s the greatest team sport. You make each other better in practice.”

How much better? We’ll find out September 9.

“There’s a long ways to go,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to keep grinding through it, grinding through the film. Continue to show up one day at a time at practice and get better every rep.”

“It’s getting there, it’s getting there, I’m learning,” Clayborn said. “I think we’re all learning, we’re all getting better, all meshing together. First game, we’ll be good.”

Bigger and better? Could be.