New England Patriots OT Cameron Fleming has started two games this season. He was asked to play left tackle against the Cardinals and former Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones in week 1, and to play right tackle this past week against the Browns.
I think it’s fair to say that Fleming exceeded expectations in these games- and it might even be correct to say that he has been good. Not just serviceable, but very able.
“Cam has done a good job for us and he's one of our most dependable players,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on Tuesday. “He's very smart and he works extremely hard. For his size he works very hard on his conditioning and he really doesn't get tired, or at least it doesn't seem like he does. He's right at the top of his group in sprints and works hard in the weight room, both on strength and flexibility and does a lot of extra things to try to continue to improve.
“I think he's quiet, but he's probably one of the most respected players on the team because of his work ethic and his toughness and his dependability. We've asked him to do a lot of different things, play multiple positions, guard, both tackles, the jumbo tight end spot and he works very hard to do all of those, and as I said his intelligence is excellent.
“He has the capacity to handle a lot of things but he's a flexible guy and nothing really seems to rattle him. He's got a very even temperament so whether it's to start, or come in, or change his role, or go from one side to the other, whatever it happens to be he's been very dependable for us. He's again, yesterday was another solid, really solid job for Marcus [Cannon] at right tackle and he's helped us out a lot.”
Fleming was the Patriots top offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus, and it’s hard to disagree. I watched the tape and I thought I could count his struggles on one hand. Fleming allowed a pressure or two. There was this time where he couldn’t pass off his block and get to the second level.
But, more than anything, Fleming was consistently good against the Browns. Film reviews of a good offensive lineman is difficult because Fleming wasn’t necessarily dominant. He didn’t pancake players or throw them off the field.
Fleming did his job, opened up the rushing lane just enough, or protected Tom Brady just enough, and then did it again on the next play.
There was just one moment for Fleming that caught my attention and it was on the Patriots first rushing attempt of the day, when LeGarrette Blount rushed for 13 yards.
Fleming (#71) is the right tackle.
The design is pretty simple. TE Martellus Bennett is flex across the formation to defend the outside linebacker. Fleming has to block the 3-4 defensive end. C David Andrews and RG Shaq Mason have to get to the second level to take out the two linebackers, while FB James Develin has to execute a wham block on NT Danny Shelton, the Browns best defensive lineman.
The linemen, Bennett, and Develin execute to perfection as Blount gets past the linebackers without being touched.
Fleming does a nice job against 6’3, 310 pound DL Jamie Meder by maintaining his leverage and angling the lineman away from the rushing lane. There’s no pancake. Meder isn’t thrown to the ground.
But Fleming brought a level of consistency to the right tackle position that Marcus Cannon hasn’t been able to due to injury and other reasons. So long as Cannon is dealing with his calf injury, then Fleming should stay the starter at right tackle- and if Fleming holds his own against the Bengals this upcoming week, then the Patriots might have to consider naming him the starter.