As he enters his third year in the NFL, Patriots’ guard Shaq Mason possesses breakout potential.
The New England Patriots drafted Georgia Tech guard Shaq Mason with the 131st overall pick in the 2015 draft. In two seasons, he’s started 25 of 30 games for the team, forfeiting only five sacks. This upcoming season, Mason has a chance to be a breakout player for New England.
Despite playing numerous spots on the offensive line in 2015, Mason spent the majority of last season at right guard. Harley Sherman ranked him fifth on Pro Football Focus’ ‘10 Most-Improved Second-Year Players‘ with a 2016 grade of 84.0.
Let’s break down some of his best and worst plays from last season:
Mason’s blocking is at its best when he’s being asked to pull. Given his experience in Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, he’s best utilized as a run blocker.
In the two plays shown above, Mason pulls from across the line as the lead blocker for running back LeGarrette Blount. He uses his momentum to block second-level players and prevents them from gaining angles on Blount.
"In his NFL.com ‘Draft Profile‘, Lance Zierlein writes, “[Mason] runs feet through contact, looking to bury his man. Salty and tough. Strength is his calling card. Moves well in space and climbs to second level under control.”"
Again, he creates space for the running back by pulling to the outside and taking away the angles of second-level defenders.
Where Mason struggles is in pass protection. As a 6-foot-1 guard, his frame doesn’t coincide with the NFL size standards for the position. Lance Zierlein noted in Mason’s ‘Draft Profile’ that he “[was] rarely asked to sustain pass protection very long.” and pass blocked on as little as “25% of his snaps” during his final collegiate season, according to College Football Focus’ Michael Renner.
In this play, Mason struggles to find his balance and is unable to create leverage with the defender. Seahawks’ defensive tackle Jarran Reed uses his hands to knock Mason off balance and uses his momentum to overpower him.
Mason is unable to get his feet set before Falcons’ linebacker Courtney Upshaw knocks him into Brady for the sack. Because he’s moving laterally, Mason can’t establish his base and is overpowered by Upshaw.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Patriots choose to run. Mason shoves Steelers’ defensive tackle Javon Hargrave off of center David Andrews and continues moving forward. He then drives linebacker Ryan Shazier onto his back and opens the middle of the field for Blount.
Shaq Mason is a crucial cog to the interior of New England’s offensive line. His best blocking comes when he’s asked to move downhill and clear space rather than shield the quarterback from attackers. Simply put — Mason’s a better boulder than a brick wall.
His ability to pull and lead like a fullback make him a premier run blocker but his short frame results in difficulty finding leverage against pass rushers. Luckily for Mason, he has offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to help guide his development.
Over the summer, he should continue to improve as a pass protector and find a stance that can help compensate for his undersized build.
If Mason can clean up his play, he has tremendous upside as a run blocking offensive guard.