The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots’ offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp finally starts next week (July 28) – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with guard Josh Kline.
Name: Josh Kline
Jersey number: 67
Size: 6’3, 300 lbs.
2015 review: After seeing only limited playing time his first two years in the league, Josh Kline became a starter in 2015 and played more snaps than any other of the Patriots’ offensive linemen. The former undrafted free agent appeared in 16 of New England’s 18 games and played 1,000 of the team’s 1,253 offensive snaps (79.8%). When he was on the field – he saw time at left and right guard –, he gave up four sacks, 17 hits and 16 hurries.
While the numbers look adequate, they do not properly reflect how well Kline really started the season. He was the Patriots’ best offensive lineman prior to hurting his shoulder in week 13 and played well as both a pass protector and a run blocker. However, when he returned from the injury, which forced him to miss two games, Kline was no longer the same player and struggled to use his strength and technique to sustain blocks.
Despite being unable to end the season on a high note, Kline’s 2015 campaign can be considered an individual success. Not only did he earn a starting role and play well early in the season, he also signed a two-year $4.9 million extension in November.
2016 preview: Kline was a starter in 2015 but neither that nor his contract extension qualifies him for a starting role in 2016. Given the depth the team has at the guard position – both returning and newly added this offseason –, the 26-year old needs to have a good summer to have a chance to make the team and be in the conversation for a starting spot again.
First and foremost, Kline needs to get back on the field to have a chance to compete for a job. He missed the media access portions of OTAs and minicamp due to offseason surgery and might be a candidate to start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform-list. If that is the case or if he is hampered in any other way by the injury’s effects, Kline’s chances of earning a starting role decrease.
But even when healthy, he needs to have a good camp to be able to beat out his talented competition. If Kline performs like he did early in the 2015 season, he has a realistic shot to once again earn a starting role. If not, his experience and versatility still give him an advantage over other guards on the team but his standing on the roster becomes less secure – especially considering his $2.0 million cap hit, the second-highest at the position.
Josh Kline was a positive surprise in 2015 and thus has a good shot at making the team and competing for a staring role again – at least if he can get healthy. Until Kline is able to take the field and become a regular member of New England’s offensive line rotation, his roster status is in question.