In the days since the draft I’ve been lamenting the lack of depth and planning for the future at the tackle position, but as one commenter pointed out yesterday we might be overlooking LaAdrian Waddle.
Waddle was released by the Lions last season after two promising years with the team. He tore an ACL in December of 2014, missed all of training camp in 2015 and just wasn’t the same player when he returned, from MLive.com:
What made Waddle such a unique physical specimen when he came to the Lions was his towering frame, with deceivingly good athleticism for a man that big. His technique wasn’t always perfect, but he was just a hard man to get around. The knee injury robbed him of that. Even once Waddle was healthy enough to return to the field, he found himself thinking rather than just playing.
The Patriots picked up Waddle and inserted him at left tackle against the Jets in Week 16 after Sebastian Vollmer was injured. He’d play just 37 offensive snaps before injuring his shoulder and didn’t appear again the rest of the season. Despite the limited look at Waddle, the Patriots re-signed him this offseason with a two-year deal.
It’s well-documented how an ACL injury can take a full year to feel completely healed and for the athlete to feel completely comfortable with it. The Lions didn’t give him much benefit of the doubt when he came back in Week 3 last season and wasn’t the same player. Well, in full disclosure Pro Football Focus had him ranked as their worst tackle prior to his release.
Still, you look at Waddle’s scouting report and this is the kind of guy I was craving to add this offseason and it looks like he was sitting under my nose the whole time.
His NFL.com scouting report strengths:
Height and extreme length are prototypical for the tackle position, and his foot quickness when in balance makes it very difficult for even the best sack-masters to get the corner. Thick arms that portend his upper-body strength, and also owns enough flexibility and girth in his lower half to anchor against bull rushes. Occasionally asked to go out to linebackers, shows agility to fit onto the block and uses his long arms to shield them from the play – though he can be out-quicked by second-level defenders and doesn’t always sustain. His strength and quickness helps him as a zone run blocker, as well.
I’ve been wrong to be dismissive of Waddle this offseason in looking at the Pats’ future at tackle. If he can regain the form he had his first two seasons with the Lions, Waddle could be exactly what the Pats need – an athletic swing tackle who can play both sides. He might even be in position to take over the right tackle spot next season. First he must get fully healthy, but the potential is certainly there.