The New England Patriots are flying high after a good win over the Denver Broncos and still have the league’s best offense, but the success of the Patriots offense is completely dependent on the health of Tom Brady. His offensive line has played much better over the last couple weeks, but the health of that line continues to be a concern for the team.
Heading into the 2012 season the Patriots, lost Pro Bowlers Matt Light and Brian Waters from their offensive line, leaving Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer as the only remaining starters from 2011. Both Mankins and Vollmer have been hampered by injury since the end of last season and that continued Sunday, which should be a worrying sight for the Patriots.
Without Mankins and Vollmer, there is very little experience on the Patriots offensive line. Dan Connolly is the most experienced lineman other than those two but he’s only been a backup in the NFL until this year, and has missed most of the season with a concussion. It was hoped that Mankins and Vollmer would be getting closer to returning to full health, but neither finished the game Sunday, which is a cause for concern.
Vollmer left the game Sunday during the fourth quarter with a knee injury, and was replaced by Marcus Cannon. A 2009 second-round draft pick, Vollmer looked like a future perennial-Pro Bowler following a stellar second season that saw him voted second team All-Pro, but suffered an injury late last season and has yet to fully recover this season.
Mankins is the most experienced – and most successful – of all the Patriots offensive linemen. A first round draft pick in 2005, Mankins has been selected to four Pro Bowls, and was named first team All-Pro in 2010. While most of the offensive line is getting their first chance to start in the league, Mankins has already played in two Super Bowls. He too left the game in the fourth quarter with a calf injury and was replaced by Donald Thomas.
Keeping Brady healthy is imperative to the Patriots success. In order for that to happen, he needs good protection from his offensive line – one has continuously been dealt blows as they continue to lose key starters. Over the last two games, it’s looked as though the offensive line has started to turn into a positive for the team, but these two injuries may end the Patriots’ solid run.