New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has earned his status as one of the greatest NFL coaches of all-time in part by not following conventional wisdom.
So it was, perhaps, that as former Georgia Tech guard Shaquille Mason’s draft stock was often qualified by his lack of experience as a pass blocker in the Yellow Jackets’ run-heavy scheme, Belichick saw something else.
In post-draft comments Saturday, Belichick said that “from a run-blocking standpoint, I’d say he’s probably ahead of every other player in the draft. Unless there was another one from Georgia Southern or Georgia Tech or whatever, but this guy ran blocked in one game more than some teams did all season.”
While the NFL game (as well as the college counterpart) has become increasingly pass-oriented, the Patriots still ran 41 percent of the time. Mason was taken in the fourth round, the first offensive lineman signed by coach Paul Johnson to be drafted.
“There are other players that are in a two-point stance (and) pass block 50 times a game that in all honesty don’t run block very well,” Belichick said. “He’s kind of the flip of that, which is a little bit unusual, but it is what it is.”
Belichick said that he gained confidence in Mason’s ability to make the adjustment from Tech’s scheme to New England’s from watching his practices at the Senior Bowl and seeing him make “a huge improvement” over the week.
“You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position,” Belichick said. “I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them.”
While the Patriots labeled Mason as a center in drafting him, Belichick didn’t say that he’d necessarily stay there.
“I think the players that we take, we have an idea of what we think they’ll do for our team,” Belichick said. “Each guy has a specific ‘Here’s what we think he’ll do.’ Now what he actually does or not, we can’t forecast that with 100 percent accuracy.”