New England Patriots right guard Shaq Mason has improved leaps and bounds since his rookie season three years ago, becoming a key cog in the Patriots’ offensive line in the process.
Mason went from a pure run blocker in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense to protecting the most important player on the Patriots in passing situations, and he did it seemingly without too much of a learning curve. In three seasons so far, Mason has played in 46 career games and started 41 of them, including all 16 games in the 2017 season.
All of this, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, helps make the case that Mason is one of, if not the best, right guards in the entire NFL.
“He’s just a guy who, the amount of development that he’s had year-to-year has been incredible,” Howe said of Mason on the latest episode of Patriots Beat. “I think it’s unlike any guard or interior lineman that I’ve seen, and this is going to be my 10th year covering the team.”
The biggest thing for Howe concerning Mason is how Mason turned himself from a downhill run blocker into a polished pass protector in fairly short order.
“When Shaq Mason showed up, the thought was ‘can he beat out Tre Jackson for the starting job?’ and there were veterans like Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell still around, so it was like, how quickly can he come in and insert himself? ” Howe said. “And when you saw him, you could see the power and the raw ability, but you knew as a pass protector he was nowhere near ready. But he held his own as a rookie, and then in his second year in 2016 it was a more refined product and he was a lot more consistent. And last year, he’s probably one of the five best run-blocking guards in the NFL already, but from a pass protection standpoint he still has improvements to make.”
Howe points out that Mason was the culprit who allowed Brandon Graham through the line for a strip sack on Tom Brady in Super Bowl 52. And while that was obviously a play that he and Patriots fans would have hoped went a different way, Howe says that you can’t put too much weight on that one play.
And the best part, according to Howe, is that the best could still be yet to come for Mason.
“The intriguing thing is that he’s only 25, so this is a guy who’s at least two years before the prime of his career and you know how much progress he’s made over the first three seasons,” Howe said. “The fascinating things is how much higher the ceiling really is and how much better he can really get before entering his prime.”
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