The third annual ten most important Patriots on the 2019 roster, according to Evan Lazar.
Number six, Shaq Mason: depending on who you ask, the best guard in football resides in New England with Shaq Mason.
The two-time Super Bowl champ was a notable snub for an All-Pro nod a year ago but was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded guard in the NFL.
Patriots fans are familiar with Mason’s stellar run blocking where his 15.0 run blocking success rate was the second-best among all offensive linemen in 2018, but he significantly improved in pass protection.
A fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech, Mason was a project as a pass protector due to the run-heavy approach by the Yellow Jackets that lacked traditional pass sets for the offensive line.
In his fourth NFL season, Mason only allowed one sack on 526 pass blocking snaps and a career-low 16 quarterback pressures leading to the sixth-best pass blocking efficiency rating among guards.
The 25-year-old is arguably the best run-blocking interior linemen in football and is now trending upwards as a pass protector, putting himself in the conversation among the league’s best.
As a run blocker, Mason’s unique combination of power and athleticism make him the centerpiece of the New England rushing attack.
With Mason leading the way, the Patriots averaged nearly six yards per rush on “power” concepts that often deployed Mason as a puller. On the play above, the Patriots ran one-back power for a James White touchdown. Mason has excellent balance, body control and timing as a puller. Plus, his ability to sink and drive on smaller moving targets make him incredibly impactful. White is the ball carrier on this play, but Mason is the one creating a path to the corner for the Pats running back.
Along with his prowess as a pull blocker, Mason is also terrific on reach blocks often found in New England’s outside zone blocking scheme.
On Sony Michel’s 40-yard run in the Divisional round, Mason executed one of the best blocks of the season to pave the way for the rookie. The Pats guard had a three-technique defensive tackle lined up over his outside shoulder. First, he has the explosiveness and foot speed to get outside positioning. Then, Mason uses terrific hand positioning to twist his upper body creating the necessary momentum to turn the tackle inside. With reach blocks against a tackle shaded outside, it’s critical that the blocker put his outside hand up and inside hand down like Mason does to create that upper body twist. Textbook outside zone block from the Pats guard.
In pass protection, Mason’s foot speed has translated into his pass sets now that he feels more comfortable as a pass blocker.
Here, Mason passes off a pick play by the Chargers defensive line with right tackle Marcus Cannon and transitions onto Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram. Mason gets an extended punch and moves his feet to stay in front of the explosive Ingram. Interior offensive line play is often about working in tandem in pass protection, and Mason works exceptionally well with others to keep Tom Brady clean.
Luckily for the Patriots, Mason inked a five-year contract extension last August that keeps him in New England through the 2023 season.
He might not have received the postseason awards he deserved last year, but Mason is starting to get the attention he deserves from those that matter most.