I've devoted plenty of time to the struggles of Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty on the defensive side of the ball. If we were to examine the play of McCourty's offensive counterpart, the clear choice would be left guard Logan Mankins. Mankins has been the best guard in the league over the past few seasons and was rewarded a large contract this past off season. However, his play this has seemed lackluster.
Mankins is typically known for his hard nosed blocking and his ability to take on all comers. This season, he seems to be getting stone walled and blown backwards more frequently. It's clear that's something is wrong and is affecting his play. However, after some review, the "something wrong" might not be with Mankins- it might just be his absurd level of competition.
Over the course of the season, here is who Mankins has primarily squared off against, as well as his success according to Pro Football Focus:
Game Logan Mankins Outcome Week 1 Randy Starks Loss Week 2 Corey Liuget Won Week 3 Kyle Williams Tie Week 4 Richard Seymour Loss Week 5 Sione Pouha Won Week 6 Jay Ratliff Loss Week 7 Bye Bye Week 8 Brett Keisel Tie Week 9 Chris Canty
Tie Week 10 Muhammad Wilkerson Loss Week 11 Wallace Gilberry Tie Week 12 Cullen Jenkins Loss Week 13 Tyler Brayton Won Week 14 Stephen Bowen Loss
In total, Mankins has won three match-ups, picked up a loss in six, and earned a draw in four. That's around a 38% success rate, which is far below expectations. However, let's examine the quality of the competition:
2010 Pro Bowlers (5): Randy Starks, Kyle Williams, Richard Seymour, Jay Ratliff, Brett Keisel
2010 Pro Football Focus Top 6 3-4 DE (3): Cullen Jenkins (#2), Stephen Bowen (#4), Wallace Gilberry (#6)
2011 Pro Football Focus #1 NT (1): Sione Pouha
Rookie (2): Corey Liuget, Muhammad Wilkerson
Veteran (2): Chris Canty, Tyler Brayton
So out of thirteen (13) games, Mankins has squared off against nine (9) elite defensive linemen. He notched 1 win, 5 losses, and 3 ties for a 28% success rating. Of course, it would be nice to see an elite offensive lineman win for frequently, but the fact remains: Mankins is squaring off against some of the best defensive linemen in football.
Still, that leaves four (4) games against players without accolades, where Mankins has picked up 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 tie. The loss was to Wilkerson (PFF's #15 3-4 DE), and the tie was to veteran Canty (PFF's 2010 #14 DT), which means those players are no slouches.
Of course, the level of competition should not be an excuse for Mankins. He's an elite player and should at least be able to play other elite players to a draw. I do think a fair concern is his play as it relates to the revolving door at center.
In games where two centers have 10+ snaps, Mankins has 0 wins, 2 ties, and 2 losses.
In games following a double duty, Mankins has 1 win (against the rookie Liuget), and 2 losses (next week will be another follow-up game)
Basically, in a game with a changing of the guard, Mankins struggles. A lot of offensive line performance is knowing what their fellow linemen will be doing and how they will react to change. The guard has a large responsibility as both an initial blocker, as well as potential support for both the tackle and the center. If the guard is unsure of how the center will block, then the guard will clearly struggle to do his job. If the center is new, then the guard may overcompensate and cause issues in the blocking scheme.
Just like how the lack of continuity and general understanding of one another is hurting the performance of the secondary, perhaps the offensive line is going through the same growing pains. Should the center position solidify, maybe the offensive line will become more cohesive.
As of now, it's clear that Mankins has been struggling. A mixture of elite competition and a low level of trust could be the source of his issues. Don't give up on Mankins yet and pin the poor performances on his new contract- there is probably an actual football issue.