Sebastian Vollmer’s strong five-game stretch in place of Matt Light after the veteran left tackle injured his knee in Denver gave credence to the idea that the rookie could be loosening the ex-Pro Bowler’s grip on the blindside protector spot on the offensive line.
Bill Belichick offered a “not so fast” a couple weeks back. And he repeated it again Monday, while praising Vollmer’s versatility to play both spots. The coach was asked if it’s rare that a rookie can move back and forth like Vollmer can, and answered by taking it a step further.
“It’s a little unusual for tackles to be able to play both sides at a high level, period,” Belichick said. “Usually when you look at the normal draft board, you look at tackles, and you say, ‘This tackle’s more of a left tackle, this guy’s more of a right tackle.’ And then you have a few guys, maybe a quarter of them, as a guesstimate, that you could say, ‘Well, he could be a swing tackle.’ . . .
“When you look at Vollmer . . . as we did last year and now after having him this year, he legitimately can play both tackle spots.”
An example of how it isn’t always that way? Here we go …
“In my brilliance,” Belichick said with a smile, “I put [Light] at right tackle as a rookie. It didn’t really work out at all. He has the physical skills to play over there. But, then, he just … Matt’s just a left tackle. When you look at his skills, I don’t think you look at him and say, ‘Well, I don’t think he has the skills to play right tackle.’
“But he’s just much more comfortable on the left side and he’s a much better left tackle than he was a right tackle, when we tried to play him there his rookie year. Once we got him back to left tackle, he was a much better football player. That was his rookie year, so maybe if it was his third year, he would’ve adjusted to it better. I don’t know, we just left him at left because he’s done a good job for us over there.”
Like we’ve had up here now, if you figure that Vollmer’s the team’s best tackle right now, and there’s evidence that he is, then his flexibility creates another competition. That being, Light vs. Nick Kaczur.
And if Light’s a better left tackle than Kaczur is a right tackle — again, there’s evidence that says that’s been the truth of late — then it probably makes the most sense to put Vollmer at right tackle and leave Light where he is. That is, if the Patriots ditch this rotation, which they probably will eventually, since most teams like play-to-play continuity up front offensively.
It’s about getting the best five out there, and Vollmer seems to be a pretty apparent part of that group. When asked if Vollmer was better suited for one side or the other, Belichick said the rookie plays each equally, and that’s not a bad thing.
“It’s kind of unusual to have tackles that have that kind of flexibility,” he emphasized. “It’s a great situation to have.”