Learning on the fly is a skill a lot of Patriots players have put to use this season, given the litany of injuries the team has suffered.
With left tackle Nate Solder suffering a concussion against the Miami Dolphins, guard Logan Mankins was the latest to put that skill to use. He swung out to the left tackle spot when Solder went down, and although this isn't his first rodeo protecting the quarterback's blind side -- that was his job description at Fresno State -- he acknowledged that there's some adjustments to make when playing on the outside.
"A lot of different angles, you're going against faster guys," Mankins said of playing left tackle. "I'm used to the big powerful guys, and now I've got speed guys on the edge, and it's just something I had to get used to and learn on the fly there on Sunday."
Mankins says it's not a question of knowing his responsibility, but simply a matter of the fundamentals.
"From a scheme-wise [perspective], it's not that hard. I know the plays at every position, so that's not too tough, but just the overall different angles, different footwork, that kind of thing, I have to process that pretty fast."
Mankins played well, allowing Tom Brady to be pressured just once on the day, but this Sunday will be different. The Baltimore Ravens are a game-plan defense that will change things up from week to week depending on their opponent.
Now that there's more tape on Mankins, he expects the game-planning will include showing him some new looks, but Mankins will look to channel one of his former teammates at left tackle.
"There was no tape before -- well, there was, what, 10 plays from a couple years ago -- so, there wasn't much," he said. "I just try to get out there. I always watched Matt Light for all those years. We're kind of the same size, so I figure when I'm out there, I should try to do what he did."
Mankins primarily faced defensive end Olivier Vernon against the Dolphins. Vernon is up-and-coming as a defensive end, but a guy like Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is long past the up-and-coming stage.
Suggs had a down year last year as he battled through an Achilles' injury, but he's right back in form this year with nine sacks through 14 games.
"He presents a lot of problems for an offensive line, for an offense," Brady said of Suggs. "He's big, he's rangy, he's powerful. He plays the run and the pass. For a guy thatâ€™s that size and how athletic he is, to play the way he does is amazing. He's done it for a long time."
Suggs has done it for a long time; Mankins, however, has not. Solder's status remains unknown for Sunday, but if Mankins is forced back to left tackle, he'll have to get right back to his roots as a left tackle if he wants to keep Brady clean.
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