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Neal, Vollmer grade out near the top

Posted by Albert Breer  March 3, 2010 08:19 AM

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Sometimes, the accomplishments of interior linemen get lost in the shuffle, but a guy like Patriots guard Stephen Neal can solace in the fact that someone is noticing.

The Pro Football Focus -- a real solid, informative site -- has been bullish on Neal for some time, and the good folks there alerted me last night (via Twitter) to numbers again ranking the 33-year-old free agent-to-be among the league's best.

PFF ranked the Top 10 and Bottom 10 in the league at "Pass-Blocking Productivity" at each line position, and Neal came in fourth (behind Atlanta's Quinn Ojinnaka, Miami's Nate Garner and Houston's Chris White) among guards. Also interesting is that I went back and found that the Patriots offense scored nearly 6 points fewer per contest in the four games Neal missed (22.3) than in the 12 games he played in (28.2).

Of course, I'm not saying -- by a longshot -- that Neal's absence is the reason why (That 59-point explosive against Tennessee seems to skew everything statistically, but it's significant enough to mention.

Elsewhere in those rankings? We find that, believe it or not, Sebastian Vollmer was fifth in PBP among left tackles, trailing only Jake Long (Miami), Joe Thomas (Cleveland), Jared Gaither (Baltimore) and Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati).

On the other end of the spectrum, Dan Koppen was among the Bottom 10 at center.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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