Seeing as I gave credit to Dante Scarnecchia yesterday, I thought I would keep it along the offensive line for today's edition of Patriots Unsung Heroes. I know it's a bit of a cop-out to pick an offensive lineman for this article, especially seeing how it is the position that virtually defines the term - but give me a break, will ya? It's the Thursday before the Super Bowl, I haven't been able to sleep all week, and I consider myself lucky that I'm even able to formulate a coherent sentence at this point.
Of all the linemen on this Patriots squad, Brian Waters has been mentioned the least. Matt Light, Nate Solder, and Sebastian Vollmer have all gotten their press time, be it because of injuries, an interesting matchup, or performance as a rookie. Logan Mankins is - well - Logan Mankins, and as a result his reputation warrants attention. Whoever New England happens to have playing at center on any given down - Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Julian Edelman - is always under scrutiny. And yet, through all of it, standing strong at guard, is New England's quietest, yet most valuable, offseason acquisition.
Waters has been an absolute rock all season. Announcers never mention his name, which means he is rarely penalized or at fault for a sack or QB pressure. In a game where one of the major storylines is how this Patriots front will handle the Giants' pass rush, the fact that Waters has still gone relatively unmentioned speaks volumes about what he brings to the table. New York is likely to shuffle their front four around quite a bit during the Super Bowl, so odds are Waters will be pitted against all of New York's best pass rushers at some point during the game. And while how effective this line will be as a unit remains to be seen, I'm fairly confident that whoever Waters is blocking on any given down isn't going to be responsible for breaking up a play or soiling Tommy B's jersey.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Waters' game is his abilities as both a pass and run blocker. This season has not been one in which the New England running game has come to the forefront, but that doesn't take away from what I have seen out of Waters and the way he creates gaps in the defensive line. Most would agree that forcing the Giants to respect the run is going to be a crucial part of the Patriots' game plan; if the Pats can run the ball effectively and protect Tom Brady, their chances of victory are good. This offensive line has its work cut out for it, and the player I worry about least is Waters, hands down.
In regards to linemen as unsung heroes, it's a pretty simple formula - the better the lineman, the more unsung he is. But with all the hype surrounding this game and all the attention given to the skill players, I wanted to take a minute to appreciate one of the most consistent players the Patriots have on their roster.
Keep it up, Brian. Here's hoping this is the last time anyone even mentions your name until Monday morning.