FOXBOROUGH — As rookie Josh Kline ran onto the field in the third quarter of Sunday’s game in Miami, he was yelling to Logan Mankins to move to left tackle; Kline would step in at left guard.
Just that quickly, Mankins had to flip the mental and physical switch from left guard, where he’s started 127 of his 128 career games with the Patriots, to tackle.
With Nate Solder on the sideline after suffering his second concussion in as many games, New England made the decision to kick Mankins to the outside and give Kline his first significant snaps of the season.
It may not seem like a big deal — Mankins really only moved a couple of feet — but he explained Wednesday there are some significant differences between the positions.
“A lot of different angles, you’re going against faster guys; I’m used to the big, powerful guys, and now I’ve got speed guys on the edge,” Mankins said. “It was something I had to get used to and learn on the fly there Sunday. It went pretty well though, so we’ll see.
“I don’t know what our plan is this week; we have a bunch of different options and we’ll hopefully figure it out before Sunday.”
In familiar terms, Mankins transitions from facing stouter, more powerful guys like Vince Wilfork to taller, faster, often lankier guys like Chandler Jones.
“Scheme-wise, it’s not that hard. I know all 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 said. “You’re running around a lot more.
“Those guys are faster, you’re not always just getting someone slammed into you. Your feet have to be a little quicker, move them a little faster.”
The ninth-year veteran revealed that he practiced at both left guard and left tackle last week, when it was unknown whether Solder would be available.
Last week, Marcus Cannon was working his way back after missing some time with an ankle injury, and the team’s third tackle, Will Svitek, has been limited in practice in recent weeks with a knee injury.
Mankins was a left tackle at Fresno State, and Bill Belichick said he has no doubt that Mankins could have played the position in the NFL and played it well. But when he was drafted 32d overall in 2005, the Patriots had Matt Light at left tackle and were pleased with his play.
Belichick asserted that Mankins could play any of the five positions on offensive line (and Mankins said Wednesday that he has been the team’s backup center in injury situations), unlike other players.
“I think there are guys that can do it and then there’s the level that it can be done at,” Belichick said. “That’s another question.”
He told the story of when the team drafted Light, and tried him at right tackle and right guard early in his career, “two brilliant moves on my part,” he quipped. Light, for whatever reason, wasn’t a fit at either of those positions, but he was the franchise’s left tackle for a decade.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who saw the film of Mankins playing tackle against the Dolphins last week, was highly complimentary.
“It’s amazing — you don’t see drop-off,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think there’s anything Logan Mankins can’t do. From the first day he got there until now, he’s even a better player than he ever was.
“He’s tough, he’s physical — he’s just a man in there. I think he can do anything. I don’t see any downside to him playing either one of those positions for them.”
Solder did not practice Wednesday, and his status for this Sunday is up in the air, though making a quick return from a second concussion in as many weeks seems unlikely.
Cannon played all but three snaps against Miami. Typically the Patriots prefer to move as few pieces as possible on the offensive line, so it could be a matter of having Svitek at left tackle and keep Mankins at guard.
Or they may decide that Mankins at tackle and Kline or even Svitek, who did play at right guard in the preseason, at left guard is the best option against a Baltimore front that features ends Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.
Mankins is ready to do whatever is asked of him.
“I feel pretty comfortable at one; I’ve played two of them in games, I’ve been the backup center a bunch of times when we’ve had guys hurt. So I feel like I could do all of them, if I was needed to,” he said.
“I always tell our guys, some plays at tackle I think are easier than at guard, and some plays at tackle are a lot harder than plays at guard, so it goes both ways.”