FOXBORO, Mass. — It was not an ideal situation for the New England Patriots: their backup right tackle against arguably the best edge rusher in the NFL.
Most would consider LaAdrian Waddle vs. Khalil Mack to be major mismatch in Mack’s team’s favor. But Waddle, playing in place of an injured Marcus Cannon, actually fared well against the former Oakland Raiders star when the two squared off last November in Mexico City.
Waddle largely neutralized Mack in a 33-8 Patriots victory, allowing two quarterback hits and one hurry but otherwise keeping the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year away from Tom Brady. Mack’s only sack in that game came while reserve tackle Cameron Fleming was spelling Waddle.
Such performances were unexpectedly common last year for Waddle, who also held his own against Denver’s Von Miller and Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers after playing just one offensive snap in 2016. He entered this season as the Patriots’ third tackle behind Cannon and Trent Brown but could be pressed into starting duty this weekend if Cannon, who left Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs with a head injury, is not cleared to play.
That would mean a rematch with Mack, who was dealt to the Chicago Bears this summer in a blockbuster trade.
Speaking after Wednesday’s practice — which Cannon did not participate in — Waddle downplayed the success he had against Chicago’s new defensive dynamo.
“I don’t think there’s too much I can carry over,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s a different game, different team, different circumstances, all that. Nothing really carries over from that. But he was definitely a challenging guy to go against. He can rush the passer. He’s a physical player. He’s going to play hard to play hard through the whistle. So we’ve just got to be ready for that.”
New England occasionally assigned a tight end or running back to help Waddle in last year’s Raiders-Patriots game, but he was matched up 1-on-1 with Mack on the majority of snaps in that game. Waddle had high praise for his opponent, who had five sacks in his first four games with the Bears before being blanked by the Miami Dolphins in an overtime loss Sunday.
“He’s a guy who goes out and he plays real hard each play,” said Waddle, who also started in place of an injured Cannon in a Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. “He gives great effort, and he’s one of those guys you’re going to have to block through the whistle, because he’s not going to turn it down until the play is over.”
He added: “He’s a guy who can give you different kind of moves. He can rush with speed or power. So I’ve just got to be ready to roll, come out and play with great technique and let that take care of itself.”
Mack primarily lines up on the defensive left side, but he does rush from the right on occasion, meaning Brown will need to prepare for him, as well. Asked what Mack does well as a pass rusher, Brown, who replaced Nate Solder as the Patriots’ left tackle this season, simply replied: “Everything.”
New England might not see a full-strength Mack this weekend, however, as the outside linebacker currently is dealing with an ankle injury and did not practice Wednesday.