The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 training camp, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with New England’s starting right guard.
Name: Shaq Mason
Jersey number: 69
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’1, 310 lbs.
2018 review: Despite Shaq Mason’s 2017 season ending on a low note — he was beaten for a strip-sack during the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss — the team expressed confidence in the former fourth round draft pick’s abilities to bounce back: in August, Mason and the Patriots agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2023 season. The investment started to pay off right away.
Mason was outstanding in 2018 as he took another step forward and can now call himself one of the truly elite interior offensive lineman in the NFL. Not only was he his usual terrific self as a run blocker —one that possess a rare blend of power and agility — he also improved even further as a pass protector and surrendered just 14.5 quarterback disruptions: Mason was responsible for only 1.5 sacks as well as 6 hits and 7 hurries.
The Georgia Tech product was not just productive, he also again proved himself a reliable and durable presence along the Patriots’ offensive line. While he missed two regular season games — weeks nine and ten against the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans — because of a calf injury, he rarely left the field when healthy. As a result, Pro Football Focus’ top rated guard finished the regular season with a playing time share of 85.2% (953 of 1,119).
Mason’s outstanding season continued into the playoffs: playing 249 of a possible 253 offensive snaps (98.8%), he was an integral part of an offensive line that surrendered just 15 quarterback pressures — 1 hit and 3 hurries coming from Mason’s side — and helped New England average 161.7 rushing yards over its three postseason contests. Without the right guard being on top of his game against the best competition in the NFL, this would not have been possible.
Despite seeing regular snaps against such talented defensive linemen as Brandon Mebane (Los Angeles Chargers), Chris Jones (Kansas City Chiefs) and Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh (Los Angeles Rams), Mason held his ground time and again en route to earning his second Super Bowl ring. And on top of it all, he also saw regular action in the kicking game as well: he played a combined 87 snaps (of 545; 16.0%) as a protector on field goal and extra point attempts.
All in all, Shaq Mason’s 2018 campaign and the Patriots’ decision to lock him up on a multi-year deal early can therefore both be classified as outstanding.
2019 preview: Entering the first true year of his contract extension, Mason is set to hit the Patriots’ books with a salary cap hit of $7.28 million — the fifth highest on the team and reflective of his status as one of its core members and a roster lock. As such, the soon-to-be 26-year-old will resume his role as New England’s starting right guard and rarely leave the field: expect Mason’s playing time to be close to 100% on a weekly basis.
Furthermore, the fifth-year man is also again projected to play his position on a high level. No matter if it is paving the way for the team’s rushing attack or protecting quarterback Tom Brady from inside pressure, Mason will be ready and productive — anything else would be a major surprise, especially considering that the entire right side of the line also stayed intact over the course of the offseason. Conditions are perfect for Mason to have another good season.