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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:

The biggest surprise to me through the first three days of Patriots training camp is that rookie guards Shaq Mason (left) and Tre’ Jackson (right) have worked exclusively alongside starting center Bryan Stork. Most often rookies work behind more experienced players early in camp, but the coaching staff has moved Mason and Jackson to the front of the line at an unsettled position. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the case if veteran Ryan Wendell was available (he’s on the physically unable to perform list), but I still think it’s significant at a position that was one of the team’s biggest question marks entering camp. Would the Patriots seriously consider going into the season with an interior line of Mason-Stork-Jackson? There’s still a long way to go, but that’s a question I hadn’t strongly considered entering camp, figuring only one of the two rookies would be in the mix.

Line them up side by side, and Mason (6-foot-1, 310 pounds) and Jackson (6-foot-4, 320 pounds) have a much different look and playing style. It’s been fun to watch, especially as the pads came on Saturday. I chatted briefly with NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock when he was at Patriots camp Friday, and he raved about Mason’s athleticism and balance, while noting he’s obviously still figuring things out because he is coming from a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech and being asked to do things in pass protection that are new to him. One thing I noticed with Mason is that his height (6-1 is undersized for a lineman) almost works to his advantage at times because he plays with good leverage and has a strong base, allowing him to stonewall defenders.

Photo: Fitting that rookie guards Shaq Mason (left) & Tre’ Jackson (right) align correctly for interviews. pic.twitter.com/QiAo41KmHR
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 1, 2015

If the season started today, I think Malcolm Butler would be the Patriots’ starter at left cornerback, and he’s shown why at times through the first three days of practice with solid coverage and plays on the ball. He also seems to be carrying himself with more confidence, as his Super Bowl interception has perhaps been a catalyst in that regard. We were all reminded of what a difference a year makes for Butler on the first day of training camp when …Read More