One of the few Patriots offensive linemen who has not lost any playing time this season to injury has been rewarded with a two-year contract extension.
Josh Kline has started all eight games at guard: four at left guard, four at right. He’s been on the field for all but 54 plays (515 of 569) and has played every snap for the past three games, a dependable presence for the unbeaten Patriots in an important area that has been hit hard by injuries.
The extension, which goes through the 2017 season, comes with a base amount of $3.3 million, but Kline could make up to $4.9 million through incentives. He is making $585,000 this season, the last in the three-year, $1.5 million deal he signed as a rookie.
“Josh has given us consistent play,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s played at both guard spots this year, so he’s had to be in tandem with a lot of different people — certainly the center, David Andrews, also both tackles, or all the tackle combinations that he’s played alongside.
“He’s an intelligent guy, he’s tough, he plays very hard, and he always gives us everything that he has. He’s a guy that’s been in our system, he’s learned how to play in our offense.”
Kline joined the Patriots on May 3, 2013, as an undrafted rookie out of Kent State. He has seen his role steadily grow: After a stint on the practice squad in 2013, he played in seven games that season, then appeared in 14 last season, starting five.
“He’s a valuable piece to what we do,” said McDaniels. “We count on him to provide veteran leadership and help the communication process up front.”
Keeping it close
Only one team has more sacks than the 27 by the Patriots (Denver has 30) and no individual has more than the 9½ of defensive end Chandler Jones. Like most everything else, it’s been a team effort to get the 27, and also a team effort for Jones to get his number, which approaches his previous season high (11½ in 2013) only eight games into the season.
“There [are] going to be a handful of plays that you can probably identify and say that was a great pass rush by a certain player and that basically dominated the play,” said coach Bill Belichick, “but there are far more plays that are collective, whether it’s coverage that forces the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer, or people in the throwing lane, or a player that’s providing a little bit of pressure initially on the quarterback, but he slides to get away from him and that puts him closer to other rushers.
“That being said, the closer you are to the ball more often, the more chances you’re going to have of making plays, and I’d say Chandler has definitely done that. He’s put himself close to the quarterback on a number of occasions.”
A Giant presence
Jason Pierre-Paul rejoined the Giants last week, after missing the first eight games following a fireworks accident over the summer that severely damaged his right hand and cost him a finger. In Sunday’s 32-18 win over the Buccaneers, Pierre-Paul started at right defensive end, played 45 snaps, and was credited with two tackles and two quarterback hits.
The statistical impact might not have been there, but the workload was heavy for his first game in 10 months.
“I know he hasn’t played a lot of games this year, but we’ve seen him in the past,” McDaniels said. “A very difficult player to block on a consistent basis. He’s a unique player. He’s got great length, burst. He’s got a variety of different pass-rush moves.”
An A for the D
Don’t look now, but the Patriots defense might be catching up to the offense. The Patriots are eighth in total defense (third against the run, 16th against the pass) and second in total offense (26th rushing, third passing). The last time the Patriots finished among the top 10 in total defense was 2008, when they were 10th. The best they’ve ever done defensively under Belichick was in 2007, when they allowed only 288 yards per game and had the fourth-ranked defense, to go along with the league’s No. 1 offense . . . Finishing Sunday’s game with only five healthy offensive linemen, the Patriots added two to their practice squad Tuesday, signing Keavon Milton and Torrian Wilson. Milton appeared in eight games for the Browns in 2013. To make room on the 10-man practice squad, the Patriots released wide receiver Austin Hill and defensive back Floyd Raven Sr. . . . After rushing for a season-high 129 yards, LeGarrette Blount is one of three finalists for the FedEx Ground player of the week, along with DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. Fan voting continues through 3 p.m. Thursday . . . Not only does Stephen Gostkowski lead the NFL in points (88), he also has a league-high 42 kickoff touchbacks. He is on pace to finish with 176 points, which would be 10 more than the season record of 166 set by David Akers of the 49ers in 2011 . . . Sunday’s game against the Giants will have the top CBS team of Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Tracy Wolfson on the broadcast, with Ed Hochuli serving as referee.