Despite losing Nate Solder to a record-breaking contract offer in free agency, the New England Patriots’ offensive line has not skipped a beat this season. In fact, the unit has looked as good as it ever has with Trent Brown replacing the long-time starting left tackle. Brown’s performance over the first 13 games of the year is a big reason for the Patriots’ success up front — but so is the play of the other four starters.
One of Brown’s four teammates stands out in particular: starting right guard Shaq Mason. After signing a five-year, $50 million contract extension in late August, Mason is playing up to his price tag and constantly showing why he is not just one of the NFL’s best guards but of the best offensive linemen overall. According to advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, only six players are graded better this year than the 25-year old:
2018 Overall Grade: 79.5
Mason is a bowling ball in the run game and will throw some of the most impressive blocks you’ll see all year on a near-weekly basis. He’s had only three games all season with a below average run-blocking grade.
As PFF author Michael Renner notes in his story on the NFL’s top 25 blockers, Mason’s performance in the run game is the main reason for his excellent grade — the second highest for a right guard behind only the Dallas Cowboys’ Zack Martin (80.2). Over the years, however, the Georgia Tech product also grew into a reliable pass protector for quarterback Tom Brady and is now an all-around Pro Bowl-level player.
While the grades handed out by PFF are by no means the be-all-end-all of player evaluation and performance assessment, they still tend to recognize a players’ strengths and weaknesses in particular situations. And seeing Mason’s grade rank him among the NFL’s best linemen is certainly reflective of his overall play this season. Safe to say that the Patriots made a smart move locking him up long-term.