New England Patriots Training Camp - Analyzing the Key Offensive Linemen
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM
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Solder has the very important task of taking over for Matt Light and protecting Brady's blindside. As a rookie the youngster was very impressive playing both tackle positions, but for a limited time. Now he enters his first season as a full-time starter and will need to prove his consistency from week-to-week. Solder doesn't need to earn his starting spot in training camp, but he does need to solidify his trust with his teammates.
Nobody is sure if Mankins will even play during training camp. If he does see the field, the Patriots will only be looking to evaluate when he can return to the field rather than anything else. If Mankins misses all of camp, he will be less likely to be involved later this year.
After entering last season as a guard, Connolly impressed in Dan Koppen's place as the team's starting center. Connolly should be the favorite entering training camp to be the team's starting center once again, but he will face competition from the returning Koppen. If Connolly loses his place at center, he still has the chance of filling in for Mankins at guard.
Waters didn't report to the Patriots on the opening day of training camp, but as a veteran he is likely just taking his time to acclimate back to the team. Waters should still be expected to start at right guard regardless of how little he features in camp.
Vollmer is on the PUP list entering camp with a back problem that has bothered him for over a year. It is a chronic problem that he will likely be forced to play through at times this year. Vollmer is penciled in as the team's starting right tackle without any competition. His health is the only thing standing in his way this year.
Koppen is the most experienced player left on the Patriots offensive line, excluding Waters who is not at camp, but is returning from missing most of last season through injury. Koppen will have to earn his starting spot in training camp but at the very least will be a valuable backup.
Gallery is a former first round pick as a left tackle who has since been moved to guard. He signed a massive deal in Seattle prior to last year but was released after only starting one season. Gallery was signed by the Patriots as a veteran presence to potentially fill in for Mankins if he misses time in the regular season. His versatility will be valuable also as Gallery could potentially back up Solder at left tackle.
Considering Sebastien Vollmer's back issues and Nate Solder being a first time starter at left tackle, Marcus Cannon could see the field this season as the backup swing tackle. Cannon needs to continue to develop in training camp and prove himself worthy of playing significant time during the regular season.
Without Mankins or Waters in training camp, guard/center Wendell will see some time running with the starters in camp. Bill Belichick will obviously want to keep some continuity on his offensive line entering training camp, but if Wendell excels he could push his head coach's hand.
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