As the New England Patriots training camp rolls on, one important part of their stout offense needs some good news soon. The most important player on the Patriots is unquestionably starting quarterback Tom Brady. With his health being of the utmost importance, the second most important group are his offensive lineman. Once a group offering no concern, that Patriots safety blanket might be taken off.
Over the past ten years, the Patriots have had the luxury of a relatively consistent offensive line. This is why Brady has been on the field more frequently than others that play his position. The Patriots front office knows how important it is to keep a starting quarterback healthy in the NFL so they have placed a strong and consistent group in front of their star for many years. However, this year there are some questions that could cause concern.
Right now the Patriots are without Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, and Sebastian Vollmer. All three of these players are key components to the team’s offensive line. Mankins is currently recovering from an ACL injury suffered last year which forced him to have reconstructive knee surgery and is yet to participate in camp. Waters has been considering retirement during this offseason and has yet to report to camp. Vollmer is dealing with a chronic back problem which has kept him out of action. Mankins and Waters have a combined ten Pro Bowl appearances and Vollmer is one of the most promising young offensive lineman in the league.
In the past the Patriots have had pretty good luck with backup quarterbacks. When franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001, Brady took over and led the team to three Super Bowls in four years. When Brady was injured in the first game of the 2008 season, he was replaced by Matt Cassel who led the team to an 11-5 record and nearly a division title.
The problem for the Patriots this year is they don’t have a clear cut replacement if Brady goes down. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are the backups for Brady this season and while Mallett has been making strides, neither seem prepared to take the reins of the most prolific offense in the NFL. With Brady entering the late stages of his career and important players coming near the end of contracts, winning now needs to be a top priority.
With Mankins, Waters, and Vollmer, Brady is one of the best protected quarterbacks in the NFL. Without those three there is still some experience but definitely more questions. Coming off a season where they won the AFC championship, the Patriots have made moves this offseason to make a run for their fourth Super Bowl title this year. It can’t happen without Brady and losing these three key protectors could definitely hurt their chances.