December 19, 2013

NFL: Mankins versatility on display for Patriots

Lineman slides over to guard to fill in for Solder.

By Matthew Carroll
Associated Press

on display for Patriots

click image to enlarge

MOVING OVER: Logan Mankins (70) will likely move from left tackle to left guard when the New England Patriots play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Mankins is filling in for the injured Nate Solder.

AP photo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick saw promise and versatility watching tape of Logan Mankins play left tackle in college.

The New England coach now needs his stalwart left guard to duplicate those efforts more than ever.

When starting left tackle Nate Solder left the Patriots’ loss Sunday against Miami because of a concussion, his second in two weeks, Mankins shifted from guard to tackle, spending almost the entire fourth quarter protecting quarterback Tom Brady’s blind side.

And if Solder is unable to return Sunday for the Patriots’ pivotal game against the Ravens — an unlikely scenario despite practicing in a limited capacity Thursday after not partaking at all a day earlier — Mankins once again will be called upon to fill the void.

“Scheme-wise, it’s not all that hard. I know all the plays at every position so that’s not tough,” said Mankins, who has started 127 of 128 career games at left guard. “Just the overall different angles, different foot work, that kind of thing. I have to process that pretty fast.”

He had no problem Sunday.

Solder, who had a concussion against Cleveland two weeks ago and was limited in practice last week, left the game against Miami after a hit to the helmet in the fourth quarter. Rookie Josh Kline stepped into Mankins’ slot at guard while the nine-year veteran inherited Solder’s spot at tackle.

The Patriots (10-4) already are without starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve Oct. 29 because of a broken right leg.

“We can’t dwell on the fact that someone may or may not be there. You just have to go with what you’ve got,” Brady said. “I have plenty of things I have to focus on. Whoever is out there, I have to trust that they’ll be able to do what they’re asked to do or else we wouldn’t be asking them to do it.”

Belichick certainly believes in Mankins.

The only film he saw of Mankins at Fresno State was of him playing left tackle, but when the Patriots drafted him 32nd overall in 2005, Matt Light already was entrenched as the starter. Mankins was moved to left guard and has flourished, making the Pro Bowl five times.

“I think there’s no question that he could have played left tackle in this league, played for us,” Belichick said. “But we had Light there, we put him into the lineup right away at left guard and he and Light played together for years and then we got Solder and that was kind of the way it worked out.

“I don’t think there was ever a thought from the coaching staff or from myself that he couldn’t play left tackle.”

Believe it or not, a few steps to the left translates into an entirely new assignment, Mankins said.

“You’re going against faster guys (as opposed to) big, powerful guys,” he explained. “You’ve got speed guys on the edge. You’re running around a lot more. Those guys are faster. You’re not always just, someone slams into you. Your feet have got to be a little quicker. You have to be a little faster.”

Mankins tried to emulate Light as best he could Sunday.

“I always watched Matt Light all those years where we were kind of the same size,” he said. “I figured when I’m out there I should do what he did.”

If Mankins is lined up at left tackle against the Ravens (8-6), he will be in for a tougher task than last week. Linebacker-defensive end hybrids Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are one of the most talented tandems in the league, already combining for 181/2 sacks this season.

“They’ve both played in this league a long time and I’ve seen them on film tons of times,” Mankins said. “They’re both very good players. They’re good at what they do. They’re both powerful guys and they get the job done out there.”

Mankins routinely does, too.

So much so that Belichick maintains he could play all five positions along the offensive line.

Maybe even tight end?

“I could catch,” Mankins joked. “I don’t know if I could get open.”

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