By Doug Farrar
As the 2018 regular season progressed, the Patriots perfected two strategies that helped Bill Belichick win his sixth Super Bowl as a head coach. First, they put together a power-based run game that was very difficult to stop, and it was based on the talents of guards Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. Second, they set opposing offenses up with six-man fronts that taxed guards with principles based on Buddy Ryan’s old 46 defense. In those 46 gaps, defenses go head up on the center and on the outside shoulders of both guards to force single-team blocks, which New England did very well with linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy against those guards.
If you want to know how important guards are in the NFL, consider that the smartest team in the league used the position on both sides of the ball in key ways to win yet another championship.
Guards are asked to do more than ever now — through the season, in games, and even from drive to drive and down to down. They might be working a combo block on a 330-pound defensive tackle and heading up to take care of a 230-pound speed linebacker on one play, and they could be asked to pull outside the tackle and put a perfect pin in a safety on the next play. From power to speed to agility, it’s a position that’s very hard to execute at a Pro Bowl...