COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — So far this season, the Patriots have encountered seven players who are ranked in the top-11 in sacks.
Somehow, Raiders punisher Khalil Mack isn’t included in those rankings, but the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year might be the most talented pass rusher the Patriots will meet all season.
It’s just another week for the Patriots offensive line.
“Look, it’s the National Football League, so every team has good players,” Bill Belichick said. “That’s a huge challenge every week, certainly this week, and 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 only has 4.5 sacks this season, which ranks tied for 32nd, but he had 26 sacks over his previous two seasons. He’ll get plenty of opportunities against left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who is expected to start again while Marcus Cannon remains on the mend with an ankle ailment.
Solder hasn’t allowed a sack in six consecutive games, and he didn’t give up a single pressure or quarterback hit Sunday against the Broncos. Waddle has improved by leaps and bounds this season, as he overtook Cameron Fleming as the Patriots’ top backup tackle and has only allowed three quarterback hits in three games of extended action.
He started in Week 3 against the Texans, who boasted pass rushers like J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, and handled Von Miller among his various assignments against the Broncos. And after Cannon aggravated the ankle injury against the Chargers in Week 8, Waddle played the majority of the game and held Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in check.
“(Waddle) has done a good job of staying patient, working hard, waiting his turn and now he is trying to make the most of his opportunities,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He has done well so far.”
Now, Waddle will have to keep it going against Mack, Mario Edwards (3.5 sacks) and Bruce Irvin (2.5 sacks) when the Pats meet the Raiders in Mexico City.
“Coach (Dante Scarnecchia) does a great job with all of those guys,” McDaniels said. “(Waddle) has always been a very unselfish guy, works really hard, takes his preparation seriously, a really good teammate, and he is focused on improving a lot of things with his craft. He is going to have a huge challenge ahead of him this week as we are…