The New England Patriots value versatility at all positions, but the position where versatility is the most important is on the offensive line. No player is more versatile on the Patriots offensive line than Nick McDonald, who is heading into his third season as a role player on this team after appearing in four games in 2011 and 12 in 2012. McDonald received his call-up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in early December of the 2011 season, and he hasn’t looked back since. Last August, McDonald was a standout at training camp, and his ability to play at any position on the offensive line allowed him to lock up a roster spot.
The Patriots don’t exactly have incredible depth at the guard position, though they aren’t exactly thin at guard either. McDonald is a lock to make the roster in 2013 due to his ability to play anywhere, and there’s also the fact that he is a primary backup at both guard and center. Ryan Wendell played more offensive snaps than anybody in the league last season, and he could get some breaks next season if McDonald impresses at center (or they could shift Dan Connolly to C and play McDonald or Marcus Cannon at RG).
McDonald would be a mediocre starter in this league, but he is a key backup for the New England Patriots. It isn’t inconceivable to see Logan Mankins (he missed some games) or Dan Connolly (offseason surgery) go down with injuries, and they did go down with an injury at the same time last season. This forced the Patriot to sign Mitch Petrus for depth, and it serves to show McDonald’s importance to the Patriots.
Going into the 2013 season, McDonald needs to improve his pass protection, as that is a hole in his game. He isn’t a terrible pass blocker by any means, but he is below-average in that regard. McDonald is yet another solid run blocker on the Patriots, but the 6’4″, 316 pound OL needs to improve his pass protection.
The 26-year-old Grand Valley State standout was the team’s second backup interior OL to Donald Thomas, who is poised to be a standout for the Indianapolis Colts and is one of the most underrated linemen in the game. I use the term “second backup”, because there is no “backup RG” or “backup LG” specific to side. The Patriots, like basically every team, plug-and-play their best backup when needed, and Marcus Cannon could be that guy at guard if the Patriots do decide on kicking him inside. That would be a wise decision, and Cannon is a versatile player in his own right as a G/T. But you always need depth, and Nick McDonald is a source of excellent depth on the interior. In my eyes, this goes beyond versatility, because McDonald is good enough to be a spot-starter (he proved this against the Colts) and holds an underrated role with the Pats. McDonald isn’t even close to being a special player in terms of ability (he’s average at best), but a quick look at the Patriots depth chart at guard and center tells us that McDonald has a quietly key role.