New England Patriots: Top Position Battles on Offense Heading into Training Camp

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Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots guard Josh Kline (67), center Bryan Stork (66) and guard Ryan Wendell (62) warm up before the start of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The interior of the New England Patriots’ offensive line has received a lot of attention recently. Last season they shockingly traded Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay just prior to the start of the season. Left guard Dan Connolly filled in when healthy in 2014 but retired this offseason. Fellow veteran Ryan Wendell is expected to start at right guard again with second year player Bryan Stork manning the center position.

The first candidate for playing left guard is Josh Kline, a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Kent State. Kline was recently profiled at and he may be the front-runner at left guard. Kline first stepped up in 2013 as an undrafted free agent in week fifteen against Miami and acquitted himself well against one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. This past season after rookie center Bryan Stork was injured, it was Kline who stepped in against Baltimore at right guard (with Wendell sliding to center) and who also started the AFC Championship Game against Indianapolis.

The Patriots drafted an offensive lineman Tre’ Jackson at pick #111 overall in 2015 NFL Draft.  After drafting Bryan Stork out of Florida State in 2014, this year it was former teammate Tre’ Jackson. Jackson is a massive guard (six-foot-four and 330 pounds) and although his performance dipped last year, he has held his own against some of the best interior defensive tackles in the NCAA.

Expected to be drafted in the late second/third round grade, the Patriots jumped to snap Jackson up in the fourth round. He is a big and strong guard who also has the quickness to pull in the running game and raw power to hold up in the passing game. Jackson played right tackle at Florida State and could step in at right guard next to college teammate Bryan Stork and push Ryan Wendell to the left side.

Making as second choice on the interior offensive line class in the 2015 NFL Draft, New England snagged center Shaquille Mason in the fourth round at #131 overall. Mason is a devastating run blocker who dropped only because he has little experience blocking in the passing game. Mason started three years at Georgia Tech where they rant the triple-option offense. Mason is going to have to learn to pass block in a hurry if he is to contribute regularly as a rookie. Mason also will have to learn to play at guard after having been primarily a center in college.

If Ryan Wendell sticks at right guard, expect Mason to be groomed to be the heir apparent in 2016. The 2015 season should see Mason add some bulk and focus on learning to pass block in practice. He should be on the field for special teams and possibly in a jumbo package near the goal line.

Aug 7, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots tackle Nate Solder (77) and Patriots offensive tackle Jordan Devey (65) line up against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Finally there is 2014 surprise opening day starter at right guard Jordan Devey. Devey was the 2014 training camp surprise and he was at right guard the first three weeks of the 2014 regular season. Unfortunately, the undrafted rookie free agent struggled mightily.

In his first start against Miami in week one he allowed six hurries and was targeted by the Dolphins’ defensive line. In week two against Minnesota he was routinely blasted off the line in the running game. Another bad day against Oakland glued him to the bench until injuries forced him in the lineup against the Jets. After that he was only seen on special teams.

Kline–with his strong performance in the playoffs would seem to have the inside track to join Wendell and Stork as starters inside. However, Tre’ Jackson is solid prospect and bears watching as he will be pushing Kline in the preseason. Do not sleep on Shaq Mason as he could he surprise if he is able to shore up his pass blocking. Finally, Devey is a favorite of the coaching staff and his experience last year may help get him ready to play in 2015.

Next: Position Battle #4: Third Down Running Back