New England Patriots right tackle LaAdrian Waddle could’ve accepted that he was in over his head over the past two weeks when he had to step in for reigning All Pro Marcus Cannon. The Patriots were going to face the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders and Waddle would have to defend the likes of Von Miller, Shane Ray, Khalil Mack, and Bruce Irvin. It was meant to be a difficult stretch for the Patriots offensive line.
Apparently Waddle didn’t get the memo and the Patriots shut down Miller and Mack for most of those games.
Miller had just two pressures against Waddle and failed to record a stop in the run game, according to Pro Football Focus, as the Patriots simply ran the ball in the other direction. Denver also made the curious decision to drop Miller into coverage on a large portion of his snaps.
Waddle followed that up with an outstanding game against Mack and the Raiders, giving up just one hit and hurry (Mack’s sack came against Cameron Fleming when Waddle was sidelined for the second drive) and keeping Mack away from the rushing lanes.
Mack lined up against both Waddle and left tackle Nate Solder (Solder “did not give up a single pressure” according to PFF and had his best game of the year), but the Raiders tried to get Mack in front of Waddle as much as possible. Waddle erased him from the game.
The Patriots offensive line is coming into form down the final stretch of the season after facing one of the most difficult schedules of opposing pass rushers. They played the Chiefs’ Justin Houston, the Saints’ Cam Jordan, the Texans’ J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney over the first three weeks and had to stop the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa before the bye.
Over the first five weeks of the year, the Patriots allowed 16 sacks, surpassing the 15 sacks on Tom Brady over his 12 games in 2016. Over the past five games, the Patriots have allowed just 7. Quarterback hits have dropped from 16 to 12, too.
The Patriots have rotated players on the offensive more often than they would like, with Waddle playing against the Texans, Broncos, and Raiders in place of Marcus Cannon, and with Ted Karras stepping in on Sunday for David Andrews. It’s been a trial by fire, but perhaps it’s paid off with the Patriots now capable of blocking whatever pass rushers come their way.