The OL Draft: Reading Tea Leaves

2020 Patriots Season:
Upcoming Opponent:
Next Up: at Seahawks
Pick Results: NE: 50.5% at SEA: 49.5%
Sep 20th

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Staff member Supporter
Oops, we disagree, again. :p That's not something that happens every day.

I'm pretty confident with what we will get from Jackson: a solid plug and play RG, and nothing more. Not flashy, but solid, and a potential 5-10 year starter. What we get from Mason, OTOH, is wide open. I personally think it could be much, much more.
If we do get that from Jackson, that's a terrific 4th round pick!

Hey, while we're on a roll with differing OL perspectives, maybe you can help me understand: why is the team so apparently impressed with Marcus Cannon?

mayoclinic Supporter Supporter
MC i knew were you and Manx stood on beefier Olinemen. Seems like the 3 of you guys prefer the agile linemen.

Me personally i loved both pics. You guys think this is going to be a switch to a more power run game?
I can't answer for Manx. But personally I see the Pats moving towards a hybrid "power zone blocking" approach, similar to what the Seahawks and Ravens use. Sort of a fusion of Scar and Googs' approaches. I think that they are looking for guys who are powerful enough to win 1-on-1 matchups, but smart and agile enough to work in tandem in a zone scheme. Stork, Jackson, Mason and Fleming all fit with that basic approach.
Hey, while we're on a roll with differing OL perspectives, maybe you can help me understand: why is the team so apparently impressed with Marcus Cannon?
Cannon also fits with a hybrid "power ZBS" approach: a big and powerful guy with surprising agility and athleticism. I would compare him physically to Kelechi Osemele on the Ravens. As far as I can tell, Cannon's physical abilities are first rate; it's the mental part that seems hardest for him, as he is slow to react. But presumably the Pats have some kind of gauge on how he's progressing in that regard.

Otherwise, I have no idea.

mayoclinic Supporter Supporter
From Tom Curran:
The insertion of Stork at the center position was the first step in an offensive line overhaul that will continue this season. And it appears the Patriots are working from the inside of the line toward the edges.

The Patriots have a stable of players who can play both guard and center including Stork (exclusively a center), Ryan Wendell (right guard/center), Dan Connolly (a free agent but possible returnee) and Mason (possibly).

The guards are the aforementioned Wendell, Connolly and Mason. Add Jackson to that. And Cannon. And perhaps Fleming, who’s reportedly been learning that spot most likely in an effort to increase his versatility. The Patriots also have Josh Kline and Jordan Devey to play guard. Both have had regular-season reps and neither has shown they are more than backups.

The Patriots still have Solder and Vollmer as the main tackles with Fleming and Cannon being able to play out there in a pinch.

As it stands now, the Patriots have a question at left guard. Despite all the guards they have. If they don’t re-sign Connolly, their experienced options are Devey, Kline or Cannon or flipping Wendell over there.

Neither Jackson nor Mason has played any left guard. [Note: this is incorrect, as Mason played LG for a season in 2012.]

“It’s got to be in the high 90 percent (of his reps) at right guard,” Bill Belichick said when asked about Jackson, the Florida State stalwart who slipped because of medical concerns regarding his knee.

How easy would it be to flip?

Belichick, speaking generally, said, “Some players, right side, left side, it doesn’t even matter. The next guy – right side, left side, and he feels his footwork is backwards or the odd-even numbering or the wording, whatever it is, and they are a lot better at one spot than trying to flip back and forth.

"I’ve coached hundreds of players and some guys it’s seamless and other guys it’s monumental and there’s some in between, so we’ll just have to see. But (Jackson) has played that one spot for a long time, so I think until he actually did it, I don’t even know if he could answer that question.
But there’s certainly a different stance, different footwork – you’re just seeing the game a little bit differently. But that’s tackles, guards – you know, I think tackle is a little bit different because of the type of player that plays on the offensive left compared to the offensive right. Not that you don’t eventually see them all, but there’s kind of a difference there. But inside it’s more consistent, but again, the footwork is different. Yeah, we’ll have to see. Same thing with Mason too, though – they both played right guard. He played right guard at Georgia Tech. And Mason rarely pass-blocked in the run-heavy Tech offense."

Belichick certainly isn’t daunted about either player adjusting. He went out of his way to praise Mason’s rapid improvement rate during Senior Bowl week.

“It was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was four or five practices, whatever it was down there," Belichick said. "His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position.
I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech.”

There’s a reason Belichick and his staff have faith that they can take a big, powerful, athletic man with nice footwork and smarts and mold him. The reason is Stephen Neal.

Having never played college football, Neal was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001 and by 2004 was the starting right guard on a Super Bowl-winning team. He is the standard for learning.

“I thought in a few days (Mason) showed tremendous technique progress in (pass blocking),” said Belichick. “But I mean look, Steve Neal, talk about adjustment. The guy went from not even knowing where the field was to starting at guard in a year and a half. It’s not that kind of adjustment. And this guy is a football player and from a run blocking standpoint, I’d say he’s probably ahead of every other player in the draft. Unless there was another one from Georgia Southern or Georgia Tech or whatever, but this guy ran blocked in one game more than some teams did all season. So I’d say he’s ahead in the run blocking, behind in the pass blocking. There may be other players that are in a two-point stance pass-block 50 times a game that in all honestly don’t run block very well. He’s kind of the flip of that which is a little bit unusual but it is what it is.”


Staff member Supporter
It's great to get such a clear statement about left/right flipping straight from Belichick. Not every player can switch sides, and it's not just about the different demands of the two positions. If, say, you're strongly right-handed and right-footed, you may just have more explosion or quicker reaction time with one set of motions than the other. (The fact that Mason spent a season as GT's starting left guard bodes well for him, though.)

captain stone

Pro Bowl Player
FWIW, according to a a Jeff Howe article from February, Florida St. OL coach Rick Trickett compared Tre Jackson to Brian Waters:

That would work out fairly well, if true.
Brian Waters was our RG, not our LG, FWIW.

Bill should've drafted TJ Clemmings at 97 or 101. Grissom would've been waiting for us at 111, if
not later. Clemmings at least would have had the athletic ability to possibly convert to LG, whereas
neither Jackson nor Fleming nor Cannon (why the feck did Bill re-sign this churl again?) have none
of that ability whatsoever.
Of course, the simplest solution would've been to draft last year Joel Bitonio in the 1st round, and then
Laurent Duvernay Tardif in the 6th as a development LT candidate instead of the slob Halapio.

Solder - Bitonio - Stork - Fleming - Vollmer
LDT - Clemmings - Mason - Wendell - Cannon


In the Starting Line-Up
I'm worried you're right, Captain Stone, about Jackson's shortcomings vis-a-vis Clemmings. I know Patchick wasn't high on Jackson leading up to the draft, either. Although he has a good pedigree and the size the new OL coach likes, he seems merely a more accomplished version of Halapio. I hope I'm wrong.

I also think a serious infusion of talent in the interior of the offensive line was needed. Last year I didn't think Bitonio would have gone so high. In hindsight you may be on to something. Another season will sharpen the focus of your judgment.

But comparing Clemmings and Jackson no dispute can be made about the difference in athleticism: the NJ-born Clemmings has a much higher ceiling than the Deep South native Jackson. Dante preferred smart, tough guys with athleticism. This new coach is enamored with size and power, a different tactic still working itself out. I think that's why the disastrous Jordan Devey experiment was inflicted on us and the team early last season. He is far more imposing than a better player like Josh Kline, who started the previous year in the AFC Championship game when Dante was at the helm. Also, last year's head-scratcher of a draft pick is indicative of this with the athletically challenged Halapio, who could only operate in a telephone booth, where he is a mauler.

Is that the situation in essence with Jackson?