COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — So far this season, the Patriots have encountered seven players who are ranked in the top 11 in sacks in the NFL.
Somehow, Oakland 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 Pats will meet all season.
It’s just another week for the offensive line.
“Look, it’s the National Football League, so every team has good players,” coach 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 year, which ranks tied for 32nd, but the defensive end had 26 sacks in the previous two season. 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 (ankle) remains on the mend.
Solder hasn’t allowed a sack in six consecutive games, and didn’t give up a pressure or quarterback hit Sunday against the Denver 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.
Waddle started against the Houston Texans, who boasted pass rushers like J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, and against the Broncos handled Von Miller among his various assignments. After Cannon aggravated the ankle against the Los Angeles Chargers, 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, fellow end Mario Edwards (3.5 sacks) and linebacker Bruce Irvin (2.5 sacks) in Mexico City.
“Coach (Dante Scarnecchia) does a great job with all of those guys (on the offensive line),” 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…