Profiling New England’s Potential Offensive Line Reserves in 2013

Will 2009 fourth-round pick Tyronne Green be able to earn a roster spot in 2013? (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

All but two offensive linemen who took snaps for the New England Patriots in 2012 (Donald Thomas and Mitch Petrus) are currently on roster with the team in 2013, meaning that as many as seven spots on the line may already be filled. All five starters on the offensive line remain; from left to right, those players are Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Sebastian Vollmer. With the possible exception of Connolly, all will be back next season.

In addition to the returning starters, reserve tackle/guard Marcus Cannon should be a lock for the final roster, while interior swing reserve Nick McDonald’s hold on a roster spot may be more tenuous. Even if McDonald returns, the Patriots should carry at least one or two more linemen on the final 53-man roster, with a spot or two on the practice squad additionally dedicated to the positional grouping. In this article, the other eight offensive line candidates currently on roster will be considered.

VETERAN CANDIDATES:

OT Kevin Haslam

New England’s decision to sign Haslam may very well be connected to his Rutgers pedigree; the reserve offensive tackle went undrafted out of the university in 2010 before being signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars; he was on the field for four snaps as a rookie, allowing one sack before being placed on injured reserve. He didn’t see the field in 2011, then had a brief stint with the Oakland Raiders in 2012 before being signed by the San Diego Chargers. His most recent season was also his most relevant, as he started three games and played significantly in two others, totaling 294 snaps on the season (226 at left tackle, 68 at right tackle.)

Haslam has intriguing size at 6’5” and 304 pounds; additionally, he played every position but center while a member of the Scarlet Knights. Unfortunately, Haslam may lack the athleticism to develop into a functional player with New England; he ran a 5.62-second 40-yard dash at Rutgers’ pro day, with pedestrian times in the three-cone drill (7.75 seconds) and short shuttle (4.78 seconds.) Those deficiencies were masked to some extent in San Diego’s man-blocking scheme, but the organization evidently wasn’t confident enough in his movement skills to keep him on roster as they transition to a zone-blocking scheme.

OT Will Svitek

The thirty-one year-old Svitek entered the league as a sixth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2005, where he spent three seasons from 2005-2007, recording four starts over that span. After a year out of the league, Svitek signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2009, making two starts at left tackle, which accounted for 152 of his 273 snaps that season. In 2010, his role was reduced; he played in 121 snaps, primarily as a jumbo tight end. 2011 was Svitek’s most substantial season in the league; he replaced injured left tackle Sam Baker in week seven, starting that season’s remaining eleven games (including Atlanta’s playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.) He played at an acceptable level over that span, allowing just three sacks while committing five penalties. Unfortunately, he spent 2012 on injured reserve with an arm injury sustained in training camp, which, combined with his age, may diminish his chances of making the roster.

Although Svitek may be slightly more effective than a player such as Haslam, it may be beneficial to New England to go with a younger player. Whereas a player such as Haslam or Markus Zusevics should be able to play offensive guard in a pinch, Svitek’s role is likely limited to a swing reserve at tackle, with the ability to line up at tight end in jumbo packages.

OT Markus Zusevics

New England was able to sign Markus Zusevics as an undrafted free agent last season after the former Iowa Hawkeyes tackle sustained a torn pectoral muscle at the 2012 NFL Combine. That resulted in Zusevics spending most of his rookie season on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list. However, he should be ready to compete for a spot as a swing reserve in 2013, as he has prototypical size for an offensive linemen at 6’5” and 300 pounds, with adequate 33” arms. With the Hawkeyes, Zusevics played right tackle, as the left tackle position was manned by eventual Detroit Lions first-round draft pick Riley Reiff; at the pro level, it’s likely that Zusevics will be relegated to the right side once again, although the potential for him to slide inside to guard exists as well.

Zusevics may not be the most mobile or powerful lineman, but having already spent one season with the organization, he may be more equipped to contribute immediately than an incoming player, which should give him an early advantage. Zusevics also possesses the best movement skills of the four veteran players in terms of securing second-level blocks, which should offer value in New England’s offense, which includes both man and zone principles.

OG Tyronne Green

Tyronne Green began his collegiate career at Auburn as a defensive tackle before converting to offensive guard, where he performed well enough as a two-year starter to be selected by the San Diego Chargers in the late fourth-round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He saw limited action over three games as a rookie in 2009 before being more heavily integrated into the offense in 2010, starting in seven of twelve games played, primarily at right guard. In 2011, Greene started another eight games, all of which were at left guard. He remained at left guard in 2012, starting all thirteen games he appeared in.

While Green doesn’t have ideal height or length, he is the most battle-tested reserve option on the roster; his value is supplemented by having played all five offensive line positions over the course of his career, albeit sparingly at any position other than offensive guard. His experience playing next to Haslam may increase the chances of seeing both players on the final roster in 2013. However, like Haslam, Green is not the most athletic guard around, having submitted a 5.40-second 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL Combine, then disappointing in the three-cone drill (8.12) and short shuttle (4.80) at Auburn’s Pro Day that March.

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Tags: New England Patriots, NFL

10 Responses to “Profiling New England’s Potential Offensive Line Reserves in 2013”

  1. Stephen S says:

    I’m finding myself more excited about the DL then the OL this year how about everybody else

    • Stephen S says:

      To me the most exciting things on the OL is the rookies, Markus Zusevics and Marcus Cannons role

  2. MaineMan says:

    While Haslam’s Rutgers connection makes for good copy, it seems unlikely that it’s very near the top of the list of reasons why the Pats picked him up. His – and Tyronne Green’s – experience in San Diego’s (now former) man/power-blocking scheme is probably much more relevant. The Pats have been running mostly a zone/stretch scheme with some occasional man-blocking, but the defense may be facing man/power schemes against Atlanta, Cinci, Denver, Miami (2x) and the Jets (2x) that are similar to what SDG ran in 2012. This is assuming that the teams listed above haven’t changed things up for 2013. The same may also apply to Svitek a bit as he’s coming out of the Falcons man/power scheme, though he had prior experience in Kansas City.

    Anyway, the defense will need to practice against man/power schemes through OTAs and Camp, while the Pats offensive starters will need to be practicing their own Stretch/Zone concepts. So, Haslam, Green and Svitek may all be effectively mere “scout team temps”.

    The other thing is that (IIRC), the Pats were scouting potential late-round OL fairly heavily for the 2009 (Green) and 2010 (Haslam) drafts and may have even had pre-draft workouts with both these guys. The Pats seem to tend to continue to follow the NFL careers of draft prospects they’ve been interested in and, thus, may have some pretty good “book” on both them.

    Also, Haslam was part of the Rutgers OL during a rare period under Schiano when the offense was actually pretty decent. Usually the Rutgers offense kinda sucked while the defense was usually good to very good.

    I mean, it’s also entirely possible that BB had several appropriate scout team OL bodies to choose from but picked “the Rutgers guy” just to screw with people’s heads.

    • MaineMan: Very thoughtful comment. It’s certainly possible that linemen such as Haslam and Greene were brought in to aid in preparation, although based on the strength of the Rutgers connection, I’d also venture that there was a higher comfort level with a player such as Haslam relative to one of the other available options, simply because Bill Belichick had access to more of his former teammates, who could provide a better idea of what the team was getting in Haslam relative to another reserve. Lately, I’ve been thinking that Svitek will make the team, mostly because the team would assume $500,000 in dead money by releasing him.

      • MaineMan says:

        Thanks!

        WRT Svitek, I’d agree that the Pats likely signed him as a “keeper” based on the $375 guarantee + $125k signing bonus, but, with $10M+ in available cap space and no further truly major expenditures on the horizon, if other options turn out to be better for them, they could easily absorb that $500k and probably wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

        WRT Haslam/Rutgers – It’s hard to know exactly when the Schiano-BB connection began to develop into what it is today. Stevie must’ve started there in, what, 2009? That was Haslam’s (and McCourty’s) last year there. Also, as I speculated (and my memory and records aren’t entirely clear on this), the Pats may have been looking at a lot of potential Day-3 OL prospects out of the 2010 draft class, and Haslam may have been one of the guys they scouted heavily.

        If so, (and, actually, YOU could probably verify this if you have access to NEPD Pre-draft Contact lists for prior years) the “book” they built on Haslam back then, and have likely added to since, may well have been much more of a factor than BB’s current connection with Schiano. The Pats seem to scout the Shrine Game as intensely as they do the Senior Bowl (Vollmer, Ninkovich and a fairly high number of other current/former Pats came out of the SG). Haslam, IIRC, showed up pretty well during the 2010 SG Week (as did Mike Kafka, Zac Robinson and Robert Malone), so that may have been the start of the Pats’ interest. OTOH, they were also scouting McCourty out of that same draft class, perhaps based on their observations of his twin brother, Jason, who’d come out the previous year.

        In any case, there’s enough reason there to believe that the Pats’ scouting interest in, and book on, Haslam may have started well before BB and Schiano became buddies and that his recent acquisition may have little to do with that or the current interest in former Rutgers defenders.

        • Seth says:

          I am pretty familiar with Haslam. A couple of things missed by just looking at “pro-day” numbers is the comment about how athletic he may be. In his Sr. season with Rutgers, one of the game day covers was a story on Haslam called “The Athlete”. You could see all season, he and A. Davis pulling from their OT spots. His poor numbers in the 40 and cones was due to a tweeked hamstring. It is why he didn’t even attempt a 2nd run. His first NFL start (after missing his entire 2nd year due to a MCL) was against Pitt last year at LT. Was awarded the offensive Game ball for locking down that left side.
          SD decided to go with all big bodies this year and had no plans for a 305lb OT.
          NE Pats were looking at Haslam since his draft day and made the call to try to sign him as an UDFA as well as many other teams. Jags just made the best offer. NE also called for him to tryout last year but he had literally just agreed to go out to Oakland just hours before.

          Now, as for the Green release…very surprised by that move. I’m sure he will be snatched up quickly. Sometimes it is almost impossible to figure out what may have gone right or wrong at camp for OL.

    • td says:

      I agree with the power run part. If the two-headed TE monster and young pups at WR are not ready this year, I expect an amped up running game with Ridley, Bolden & Blount with Vereen on 3rd downs.

  3. Bobby says:

    Get a life



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