PHOTO: Patriots offensive lineman and first-round draft pick Logan Mankins speaks with reporters after practice in Foxboro July 30, 2005. Mankins has been practicing with the first unit at left guard during cam. (Patriots Insider Photo)
Spotlight: Logan Mankins
By Jon Scott, Patriots Insider
Patriots' rookie first-round draft choice Logan Mankins, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300 pound mass of football blocking material, is being asked to do something relatively foreign to the New England franchise under head coach Bill Belichick, and that's to start the season on the offensive line as a rookie. There were other rookies draft picks to start for the Patriots (2000-Klemm, Randall; 2001-Light; 2003-Koppen), but none were first-round draft choices.
Mankins, who the Patriots drafted based upon recommendations by former Belichick associate and Fresno State head coach Pat Hill among others, is in a unique position. He is the head coach's first, first-round draft choice of an offensive lineman since the coaches days in Cleveland, where Belichick tabbed center Steve Everritt 14th overall to be the anchor of the Browns line.
Belichick, renowned as a defensive guru, has been loath to draft offensive linemen in the early stages of the NFL draft. The decision to go after Mankins in the first round, which many draftnicks thought a reach, is a leap of faith for the coach. Mankins' versatility has the coaching staff confident in their decision to name him starting left guard for the departed Joe Andruzzi.
Although Mankins played offensive tackle for Fresno State Belichick thinks he has the type of versatility to play any number of positions on the offensive line, from guard to tackle, even center.
"He's a smart guy. Things come easily to him," Belichick explained. "He understands concepts and he can handle a lot of assignments. I don't think the volume of the plays of the offense is a problem. I think that the bigger adjustment for Logan is seeing the things that happen and seeing them and reacting to them as quickly as he has to."
Throughout the process of learning the position, Mankins remains humble in his approach to the game and his ability to contribute to the team. ''I'm a rookie," he said. "I was told I don't know anything."
Yet in spite of Mankins being a rookie, or maybe because of it, Belichick has a comfort level in the progress the former Bulldog has shown on the field, as well as his ability to learn new things from different opponents.
"I think that Logan learns every time he goes out on the field," Belichick said. "He experienced some different things from New Orleans, different fronts and different matchups and those were good learning experiences for him…The Bengals did a lot of stunting and blitz-zoning and gains and stuff like that. So, it was a little bit of a different look. I think that both of those games were good learning experiences for him and the entire offensive line."
What does this mean down the road for Mankins?
In the world of veiled compliments, Belichick has been heaping praise on his rookie. " He's been playing in between two pretty good players and two pretty experienced players [Dan Koppen and Matt Light], so I don't think that has hurt him any, " the coach offered.
"I think that there were number of guys that showed some positive plays and thats good. It just comes back, really, to consistency and the ability to do it on a sustained, dependable basis."
Mankins understands that consistency and preparation are the keys to his success. "I've pretty much got everything down," Mankins said. "I think I'm well prepared. It's up to me to execute."
The former first-round pick believes that he'll be OK for the season. Based on what he's been able to demonstrate so far, it's hard to argue.