Mason coming into his own to power Patriots' O-line

Mason coming into his own to power Patriots' O-line

FOXBORO - On a 44-yard jaunt by Dion Lewis Sunday, guard Shaq Mason chipped down on the defensive tackle before easily advancing to the second level to take out the linebacker, freeing the diminutive Lewis to break into the secondary. 


Later, on Rex Burkhead’s 30-yard run, Mason exploded out of his stance, pulling right past Cam Fleming, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen to flatten Tre’Davious White, freeing Burkhead to waltz down the sideline with nary a body to worry about.

On the Patriots’ touchdown scoring drive in the third quarter, Josh McDaniels called the same play twice within a 5-play span. Why? Because of Mason. Against an even front, he pulled with such quickness that he was on top of an unsuspecting linebacker to pave the way for an easy six yards. Once the Pats entered the red zone, they went back to the play. Facing an odd-man front, Mason pulled but recognized leakage from the backside linebacker. Instead of turning up and blocking the first off-colored jersey he saw in the hole, Mason peeled back and walled off that penetration. Lewis scooted through the opening and nearly scored, picking up 15 of the 16 yards to the goal line.

“I love when they give me the opportunity to get out in front of the play,” said Mason.

That opportunity has come frequently for Mason, who’s entered the conversation as one of the best guards in the league. He joins a long and impressive line at that position in Patriots history, from the greatest of all-time, John Hannah, to borderline Hall of Famer Logan Mankins and Mankins' teammate from that era, Steven Neal. 

“I don't think we've had many guards as athletic as Shaq,” said Bill Belichick. “He's pretty athletic. He's got a real good lower body. He's got a lot of leg strength and can move people and he can run very well, as you mentioned, on screens and pulling plays and so forth. He's really an athletic player that's strong, and explosive, and can make blocks in-line, and can also get out into space and run and make blocks in space. That's a pretty tough combination.”

Projecting Mason as a professional was complicated. He plied his trade at Georgia Tech, where passing plays are called only out of desperation. The Ramblin’ Wreck run on first down, second down, third down and fourth if they had to. In addition, their playbook is minuscule. Seventy plays recalled Mason, maybe less. He had to learn how to handle the sheer volume of the Josh McDaniels offense, but more difficult, this newfangled skill known as “pass blocking.” 

“We didn’t do that often,” said Mason, a man of few words.

But Mason worked at it, compensating for his shorter arms by relying heavily on quick feet. He was merely average at fending off pass rusher as a rookie but made that second-year leap last season, earning some Pro Bowl consideration. Now in year three, Mason should be a lock. He’s allowed one sack by my count. That hasn’t gone unnoticed. 

“in some cases, his athleticism shows itself the most when he has to redirect and handle himself in pass protection in an individual one-on-one match-up,” said McDaniels. “We don't often think of that as the time that's going to show up the most, but sometimes when the line slides the other direction and you're one-on-one there, and a good rusher has a lot of space to get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game, you have to be able to move your feet and redirect. The rushers, obviously, have more than one move and they counter and then Shaq would counter.”

Mason acknowledges there were some steps to take when he left Georgia Tech but with that quiet confidence, he wanted to make sure everyone knows it wasn’t something he felt he couldn’t handle.

“It wasn’t as big a jump as some may think but it definitely was an adjustment coming from the college I came from to here,” he said. “But I was certain I could do it.”

The rest of the league is now certain too.

Shaq carries Gronk at Miami dance-off

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Shaq carries Gronk at Miami dance-off

Remember when Brandin Cooks rode Rob Gronkowski around like a horse to celebrate a Patriots touchdown back in November?

Well, Gronk doing Gronk things in Miami managed to find about the only person he could ride. 

Shaquille O'Neal, at 7-foot-1, gave 6-7 Gronk a ride on his shoulders as they celebrated the debut of "Shaq's Fun House" as part of the three-day Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

So, who won the dance-off?

Shaq vs @gronk dance battle you tell me who won

A post shared by DR. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Ed.D. (@shaq) on



Report: Patriots' Harmon detained in Costa Rica with pot

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Report: Patriots' Harmon detained in Costa Rica with pot

Patriots safety Duron Harmon has returned to the U.S. after he was reportedly temporarily detained when he tried to enter Costa Rica with 58 grams of marijuana.

The Costa Rica Star reports that Harmon, 27, was traveling from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and was temporarily detained Friday night in Costa Rica with the marijuana inside a can of Arizona ice tea, along with three pipes with cannabis oil, THC candy and four glass containers with compressed marijuana weighing a total of 4.3 grams.

"We are aware of the situation involving Duron Harmon Friday night in Costa Rica," the Patriots said in a statement. "He has since returned to the U.S. and we are seeking to gain more information. At this time, we have no further update."

Harmon, who has been with the Patriots his entire five-year NFL career, had four interceptions and 23 tackles last season.