The New England Patriots will be without right guard Shaq Mason due to a broken hand for an undetermined period of time. So whether Mason is able to return in three weeks or three months, the team is going to rely on back-up Josh Kline to keep the offensive line afloat.
If he can.
Kline started at right guard against the Bears and he was the worst player on the Patriots, according to Pro Football Focus. Upon preliminary viewing, I thought Kline really struggled as well as he appeared to be knocked back into the pocket time and time again. It also appeared like Kline injured his shoulder, which is noteworthy because he underwent shoulder surgery this offseason.
But after watching the game again and focusing purely on Kline, I thought that he did a better job than how I initially gave him credit. He’s clearly a weaker guard than Joe Thuney, but he played well enough to keep the line afloat.
Kline started off poorly and I think that’s why I gave him negative marks on the day. This is him getting beaten to the inside by a spin move on the Patriots first drive:
The pressure forced Jimmy Garoppolo to throw the ball, which was behind the intended target.
On the next drive, Kline offered this laughable attempt of an open field block:
But it wasn’t all bad for Kline as he he followed that up with a nice, if borderline not allowed, block to remain in front of his defender. He also showed nice recovery in the passing game to stop a rushing linebacker in his tracks.
But this second drive is when Kline appeared to suffer a shoulder injury:
The rest of the second quarter wasn’t ideal for Kline, even if it wasn’t always his fault. He was knocked into the backfield a couple times by Bears rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and again by veteran defensive tackle Will Sutton. There were clear miscommunications between Kline and center Bryan Stork and between Kline and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
Here’s Kline getting overpowered by a linebacker and messing up RB LeGarrette Blount’s blocking key, along with Bullard pushing Cannon into Garoppolo’s rollout lane, which traps the quarterback and makes the pressure allowed by Kline to appear even worse:
But throughout the second quarter and the first drive of the third, I saw good complementary play out of Kline. He offered valuable support to both Cannon and the center, whether it was Stork or David Andrews. He usually held his own in pass protection and was used for more complicated pull and trap blocks in the run game.
Here’s Kline opening a lane for James Develin and Blount, even though it looks like he’s getting overpowered.
Whether or not this is a trap or Kline getting overpowered, he removed Bullard from the play and allowed Develin to hit a linebacker to spring Blount beyond the line of scrimmage.
In general, I thought that Kline’s lows were extremely notably and that is why he grades poorly. When he whiffed on a block, he did it in a major way that ruined the play or at least the miscommunication was in the camera focus.
For the most part, I thought Kline was fine. I still wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots rushed Jonathan Cooper back to the field, or promoted 3rd stringer Ted Karras, or asked back-up center Bryan Stork to play guard.
But if Shaq Mason misses a couple weeks in the regular season, Kline would be a serviceable option.