NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
It is Senior Bowl week and we are already hearing reports that the Patriots have been meeting with Offensive Lineman down in Mobile. The Patriots offensive line has taken a lot of heat this season because of their issues in pass protection and run blocking. The criticism is well deserved. Last off season, the Patriots added a lot of interior lineman, but all of them had their struggles. The Patriots also just let go of their O-line coach, so their seems to be a lot more questions than answers right now.
Two years ago, the Patriots seemed to make a philosophical shift in what they were looking for in their offensive linemen. It used to be that the Patriots targeted more athletic guys, giving up strength for speed and movement skills. Recently however, we have seen the team bring in much bigger, “mauler” types. What has happened? There now seems to be a disconnect along the line where none of the pieces seem to work well together and it is looking like it will be a priority for the Patriots to fix. With that in mind, I took a look at small school prospect Joe Haeg.
Name: Joe Haeg (#59)
School: North Dakota State (Sr.)
Weight: 310 Lbs.
Haeg is a former Tight End who converted to Tackle. He has a good frame with room to add more bulk. He has quick feet to mirror pass rushers and good athleticism to get to the second level to make blocks in the run game. He is a smart player with a lot of game experience and he rarely misses an assignment. Haeg shows good technique in pass protection. He is light on his feet and he moves smoothly in both run and pass protection. He has a frame that looks like it can handle some additional weight and muscle put on it.
The biggest concern for Haeg may be the level of competition that he has gone up against. Another concern I have is strength. Even at the FCS level there were times that he would get knocked back out of his stance and have to re-anchor. He did a nice job of getting back into position, but at the NFL level he may not have the time to do so. In the run game, he does a nice job using his athleticism to get to the second level, but he can get too far over his feet at times and get himself off balance. He needs to learn to play under control. From a technical standpoint, he has a lot of work to do on his hand use. Too often he keeps his hands down, allowing defenders to get their hands into his body. This has to be corrected quickly if he is going to have any chance in the NFL. Finally, and I am nitpicking here, but it looked like this year he was a little heavier in the mid section area that negated some of his athleticism. He needs to put on good weight and muscle, which I am sure an NFL strength and conditioning program will do.
I can see why the Patriots are rumored to have spent a lot of time with Haeg. He is a high effort guy that went from walk on to a starting left Tackle for a highly thought of program who has one 5 straight national championships. He is a hard worker that needs some work both physically and from a technique standpoint, but has the potential to be a starter down the road. It will be interesting to see how he does down at the Senior Bowl. I think I would feel most comfortable taking him earlier on Day 3, but because he plays a premium position, he could be a late Day 2 guy.