The New England Patriots’ parade of potent opposing pass rushers will continue this Sunday in Mexico City.
The Patriots, who already have faced the likes of Von Miller, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Vic Beasley, Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, Cameron Jordan and Justin Houston this season, now are preparing to host an Oakland Raiders front led by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
“That’s a huge challenge every week — certainly this week,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday in a conference call. “Each week, our players have to meet that challenge, and when it’s over turn the page and go to the next team and meet it again. They’re all good in this league. They’re all good.”
Mack has not been as productive as usual this season, however (4 1/2 sacks so far; down from 11 last season and 15 in 2015), and the Patriots’ offensive line actually has held up well in recent weeks, holding Beasley, Bosa, Ingram and Miller to just two total sacks and four quarterback hits over the last three games.
Helping in that regard has been the emergence of backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who has impressed in relief of injured starter Marcus Cannon. Cannon has missed the last game and a half with an ankle injury, and his status for this Sunday’s game remains unclear.
“(Waddle) is going to have a huge challenge ahead of him this week, as we are offensively with this group,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “The pass rushers that they put out there, they’re as good as any we play, and we’ve got to do a good job of taking care of our responsibilities again this week. So L.A., he’s done a good job of staying patient, working hard, waiting his turn, and now he’s trying to make the most of his opportunities, and he’s done well so far.”
Waddle has been the Patriots’ biggest surprise on offense, capably filling in for Cannon — New England’s best O-lineman last season — after just playing one total snap in 2016.
“He’s played for us in the past, and L.A. works really hard,” McDaniels said. “He’s improved. He improves each week. He works really hard to do that. … He’s always been a very unselfish guy, works really hard, takes his preparation seriously, really good teammate, and he’s focused on improving a lot of things in his craft.”
Despite the presence of Mack — a first-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016 — the Raiders have been one of the worst teams in the NFL at getting after the quarterback this season. They are tied with the New York Giants for last in the league with just 13 sacks in nine games.
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