(This is another entry into the ‘Positional Breakdown’ feature on Musket Fire)
Under Contract for 2013: Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Nick McDonald
Mankins had an injury riddled year, so his play was not up to his normal high standards, though he still managed to turn in a pretty good year. Mankins is the “mean guy” on the Pats O line; he is maybe the toughest guy in the NFL and one of the most talented lineman. He is extremely strong off the line of scrimmage and is very good in the running game, but at the same time he is a great pass protector on Tom Brady’s blind side. Look for Mankins to have an even better year in 2013, once he gets fully healthy again.
Connolly was bothered by injuries for much of the year as well, as a back injury lingered throughout the season. He did play very well considering he switched back to guard from the center position he played all of last year. At times he can get beat off the line and allow penetration into the backfield, but he did play very solid for the Pats, although not up to the high standards of the rest of his line.
In my opinion Wendell had the best year of the entire Patriot offensive line. He was called into duty when Brian Waters did not report to camp, and forced Connolly to play right guard, and so Wendell had to step in at center. Wendell is a little undersized to be playing on the line, but he has great technique and an endless motor to help make up for it. If throughout the game your name is not called on the offensive line, then that means you are having a great game, and I hardly remember Wendell’s name getting called this season. Dan Koppen had been the rock in the offensive line for Tom Brady’s whole career, but I think the Pats have found a new rock for Brady in Ryan Wendell.
Solder had one of the toughest jobs in the NFL coming into this season, as he had to fill in for longtime left tackle Matt Light. Solder struggled mightily in the preseason, and that had all of us Pats fans worried, but he showed up in the regular season and played absolutely phenomenal. Throughout the year he had to go up against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL and he more than held his own. Solder is an extremely tall guy (6’8) so at times he can get caught out of position, but for the most part he played very well this year and hopefully will for years to come.
Marcus Cannon and Nick McDonald:
Cannon and McDonald both played well in emergency situations for the Pats. Cannon most notably in the Thanksgiving night game against the Jets had to fill in for an injured Sebastian Vollmer and he played great. McDonald also had to play some emergency duty for the Pats when Connolly and Mankins were out with injuries, these two guys will always be nice to have in case of injuries at any time.
One guy that is missing from this group is Sebastian Vollmer, the enormous right tackle. He is one of the most underrated tackles in the NFL and did a superb job protecting Tom Brady this year. His contract is up, and he figures to be one of the major priorities for the Pats this offseason. If the Pats are unable to resign him expect Marcus Cannon to fill his spot. I really think Vollmer will be resigned as protecting Tom Brady is the number one key to every Pats game. Overall the Patriots offensive line did a very solid job in the 2012 season, they finished tied for 4th in least sacks allowed, and the Pats finished with the 7th best rushing attack. I feel that assuming the Pats resign Vollmer; they will get even better production from this unit in the 2013 season.