FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In his nine seasons with the New England Patriots, Logan Mankins has earned a reputation as a guy you don’t mess with.
At 6-foot-4, 308 pounds, he’s big. And sometimes he’s ornery.
Mankins has been known to engage in a little after-play activity at times.
We’re now finding out just how athletic he is.
Regarded as one of the best left guards in the NFL, Mankins might find himself at left tackle in Baltimore this week when the Patriots once again try to clinch the AFC East championship against the surging Super Bowl-defending Ravens.
He found himself there in the fourth quarter of last week’s 24-20 loss at Miami after starter Nate Solder had to leave with a concussion – his second in two games.
With Solder’s status yet to be determined for this game, Mankins said he’s practicing “everywhere’’ on the offensive line this week as the Patriots try to sort out their options.
And he’s not that concerned if he plays at left tackle – that’s the position he played in college at Fresno State.
“From a scheme-wise it’s not difficult,’’ he said. “I know the plays at every position, so that’s not too tough. It’s the overall different angles, different footwork, that kind of stuff that I’ve got to process.
“You’re running around a lot more. Those guys are faster. Your feet have got to be a little quicker.’’
Mankins earned some rave reviews from Baltimore Coach John Harbaugh for his performance against Miami.
“Oh yeah, it’s amazing. You don’t see a drop-off,’’ said Harbaugh. “I don’t think there’s anything Logan Mankins can’t do. From the first day he got there until now, he’s even a better player than he ever was. He’s tough. He’s physical. He’s just a man in there.
“I think he can do anything. I don’t see any downside to him playing either one of those positions for him.’’
It may not seem to the average fan that there is a big difference in playing guard or tackle. But at guard, Mankins is usually playing against big, strong tackles or linebackers. At tackle, he is facing more athletic, quicker players who are also capable of bull rushing him. And at left tackle, you’re responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind side, which means keeping Tom Brady upright.
Bill Belichick has often said that Mankins could play any of the five positions on the offensive line. He has no doubt that Mankins could have been a great left tackle in the NFL.
“But we had (Matt) Light there, we put (Mankins) into the lineup right away at left guard and he and Light played together for (six) years and then we got (Nate) Solder and that was kind of the way it worked out,’’ said Belichick. “I don’t think there was ever a thought from the coaching staff or from myself that he couldn’t play left tackle. That’s wasn’t it. It was more, ‘We have a left tackle and he could play guard.’
“Then the whole Light-Solder transition, we actually had two left tackles (in 2011). As opposed to Light who we drafted as a left tackle, looked at him at right tackle and guard – two brilliant moves on my part – and then figured out that he was one of the better left tackles in the league for the next decade. I think it could have easily worked out that way with Logan had the circumstances been different. But that’s what it was.’’
Asked if he could compare Mankins to anyone else, Belichick cited some pretty special players, including New England’s own Vince Wilfork (drafted as a defensive tackle, he played defensive end his rookie season because New England had man-mountain Ted Washington inside) and Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden.
Ogden was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a 12-year career with the Ravens at left tackle. But his rookie year, he played left guard because the Ravens had the veteran Tony Jones at tackle.
Mankins admits that he’s more comfortable at guard – and he has five Pro Bowl selections to prove it – but can play anywhere on the line if needed. He’s even been listed as the backup center for several games.
“I feel I could do all of them if I needed to,’’ he said.
He’s spending a little extra time preparing for the Ravens this week. Not knowing if he’s going to be inside or outside, he has to watch film on several players, including Ravens playmakers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervill, who have combined for 18.5 sacks.
“I’ve lined up across from those guys a bunch of times but usually they’re on the tackle,’’ he said. “They’ve both played in this league for a long time. I’ve seen them on film a ton of times. They’re both very good players, good at what they do. They’re powerful guys and they get the job done out there.’’
What’s different about this week is that now the Ravens have seen film of Mankins playing at left tackle. They will be able to identify his strengths and weakness at that position, whereas last week, the Dolphins had no clue what to expect when he switched over.
“Definitely there was no tape before, well maybe 10 plays from a couple of years ago,’’ he said.
“It wasn’t much. I just try to get out there. I always watched Matt Light all those years. We’re kind of the same size so I figure when I’m out there I should do what he did.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: