December 19, 2013

Patriots Beat: Mankins ready at any position

The Pro Bowl guard might play at tackle this week.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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.

click image to enlarge

New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins, left, talks to teammates on the field Sunday during a break in the second half of their game against the Miami Dolphins.

The Associated Press

SUNDAY’S GAME

WHO: New England Patriots (10-4) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

WHEN: 4:25 p.m.

TELEVISION: CBS

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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