Despite Uphill Battle, Shaq Mason Is Ready For Patriots O-Line to Bounce Back
In 2018 the New England Patriots had one of the best running games in the entire league, which was due to an elite offensive line and a loaded backfield. But 2019 wasn't the same case.
Last year the Patriots had a total of only 1,703 rush yards and an average of 3.8 yards per carry. In 2018 the team had 2,037 total rush yards and an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
While injuries throughout the offensive line played a part in the dip in production in the run game last year, veteran right guard Shaq Mason still isn't happy about the way the unit played, but looks forward to bouncing back this year.
"You know as an offensive line we always take pride in getting the running game going," Mason said Wednesday during his video conference with the media. "Last year I can't say we weren't a bit disappointed in it. But we're looking forward to putting our best foot forward you know its a whole new year and we haven't even taken our first step yet. We're looking forward to getting all of us going in the right direction this year."
A key part of going in the right direction in 2020 is getting center David Andrews back out on the field. Andrews was placed on injured reserve last August due to blood clots and was unfortunately unable to participate in the 2019 season. Now that he's back in the lineup it will be a big boost for a unit that took another blow recently.
"Its great having David back in the lineup and back healthy," Mason said. "You know thats our guy so it's always great having him back in the lineup and able to contribute to our whole line."
Mason stressed the importance of having continuity in the offensive line. Having a star center like Andrews back will be important especially when adding rookies to the mix, which may be the case now that starting right tackle Marcus Cannon has opted out of the 2020 season.
One player that is very inexperienced but could play a large role for New England this season is 2019 third-round pick Yodny Cajuste. The West Virginia product missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, but could be thrust into a major role right away this year if he is able to hit the ground running when padded practices begin on Aug. 17.
"I'm very excited you know about [Yodny Cajuste] and all our guys," Mason said. "I'm excited to see what Yodny can do out there. You know he came in and he was hurt but he's been paying attention, he's been hands on and he's looking ready. Along with the other guys we're looking to see all of them compete."
New England's offensive line is fighting an uphill battle just like everyone else in the NFL. Between virtual offseason programs, no preseason games and an overall lack of time together on the field, the Patriots' issues on the offensive line - specifically at right tackle - need to be resolved within a three-week timeframe between now and Week 1 of the regular season.
While New England did help solve some of their depth issues on the offensive line by drafting three linemen this year, whether any of those depth pieces can be starting material remains to be seen.
The players that could potentially become the starting right tackle are Cajuste, sixth-round pick Justin Herron and Korey Cunningham. All of those players have little to no experience starting in the NFL, which is why it is a bit worrisome to think about how the right side of the Patriots' offensive line will look this season. That's problematic when looking at the fact that the team was projected to be a bit more run heavy moving forward based on where the talent is within New England's offense.
While the offensive line as a whole will try to put their best foot forward this upcoming season, it's hard for anyone on the football field to make progress based on the circumstances we've all had to deal with over the past five months.
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