As reporters arrived in the locker room after the New England Patriots' 41-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, center Ryan Wendell turned to one and said, "Go interview Josh Kline." It was a case where a veteran player wanted to make sure a rookie making his first career start received his just due.
Kline, who went undrafted out of Kent State and has been on and off the team's practice squad this season, had just put on his AFC East Championship hat and T-shirt when approached by reporters.
“It’s great to win the AFC East and have a shot to be a 2-seed next week. It's unreal for me, my first start. Personally it means a lot,” Kline said, struggling to come up with the words for how he was pressed into action in a critical spot.
Kline said he treated the week like any other, preparing as if he would start.
How he arrived at this point is, first and foremost, a credit to his approach and improvement. Patriots coach Bill Belichick also noted the work of assistant coach Brian Daboll when it comes to Kline.
"Brian Daboll worked him out in the spring and I think that [was] part of the impetus in our interest in him," Belichick said. "He wasn't drafted -- we were able to recruit and then sign him as a college free agent."
The results were positive for the Patriots on Sunday, as they mustered 142 rushing yards against what had previously been the NFL's seventh-best run defense.
Should Solder be forced to miss any more games, it seems likely Kline will continue to start alongside Mankins and Wendell.
Based off of remarks from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Monday, it appears Daboll not only helped in the process to bring Kline to New England, but also in his development throughout the season.
"He's spent a lot of time with our young linemen to give them extra teaching and extra classroom work when we have our meetings and are able to split those up like that," McDaniels said. "I think he's really done a nice job of teaching those guys the foundation of our system and trying to help them move along because eventually during the course of the season you know you're going to need some of those young players to step in and play potentially significant roles, as Josh did yesterday."
Aiding in the development of young linemen is just one of the hats Daboll -- who is officially listed as an offensive assistant -- has worn this season.
McDaniels added that he's provided substantial value in a multitude of ways during his first full season back in New England after stops in New York, Cleveland, Miami and Kansas City.
"Whether it's game plan thoughts and ideas or in-game adjustments or teaching some of the other players or helping us out in any way, shape or form that he could with his volume of experience as a coordinator, as a position coach in our system, I think it's just been an incredible benefit to have him here and he's really contributed a ton to our success," he said.