New England Patriots' Offensive Line Cause For Concern?

By Will Gellman
Patriots Offensive Line
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With the New England Patriots set for Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, much has been made of the receiving core, the team’s secondary, and of course the Tim Tebow saga.

Lost in all the hoopla seems to be the team’s struggles along the offensive line thus far in the preseason. Although all of the starters on last year’s team are back in the fold, there are real question marks regarding the health of the guys behind them.

With the exception of the left tackle personnel in Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, the other spots on the offensive line have either been bitten by the injury bug or possess a lack of depth. At the left guard spot, the team has Logan Mankins, but they recently let go of his primary backup Chris McDonald. This leaves, at the moment, an unknown commodity left to back up Mankins if he were to go down with an injury.

At center, Ryan Wendell, who has struggled at times in pass blocking, is the primary guy, with Dan Connolly backing him up. Unfortunately for the team, Connolly is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and may not be at 100 percent to start the year. If they both falter, the team would have a problem on their hands. This is because Josh Kline and Matt Stankiewitch are not yet ready to assume the task of protecting Tom Brady.

At right guard, the Patriots have Connolly projected to be the starter, while Will Svitek and Luke Patterson are his primary backups. The issue with this is that Connolly is coming off surgery, Svitek has a knee injury that caused him to sit out practice yesterday, and Patterson is just not worthy of a starting guard spot at this point.

Finally we come to right tackle. The Patriots have Sebastian Vollmer manning that spot again in 2013, with Svitek as the backup. In this scenario, if the team is healthy at right guard and they need an emergency body at RT, Svitek would assume that role.

That is why he is a backup for two different line spots. With Vollmer’s recurring back issues that have plagued him since he was drafted and Svitek’s bum knee, there are real questions about durability at this spot on the line.

Overall, if the starters can stay healthy, the team should be okay, but if anyone were to get hurt like Mankins did in 2011 when he tore his ACL, this team could struggle keeping Brady upright at several points this season. This is especially troubling when you consider how mediocre the line looked at times in the preseason.

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