New England Patriots right guard Dan Connolly reportedly underwent surgery on his right shoulder last week, according to a league source close to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe. Connolly will likely be ready for training camp, and the 30-year-old interior offensive lineman only missed two games last season. I don’t remember it being a shoulder injury that knocked Connolly out of those games, though.
Connolly has plenty of time to rest before training camp starts, but I think he is going to be challenged by Donald Thomas (if the Patriots re-sign him) for the starting job. Thomas emerged due to injuries at the guard position (most namely Logan Mankins), and he looks like a future solid starter and a very underrated player. Connolly is a capable starter at either guard or center, but Thomas looked better than Connolly last season when he was in as the starter.
To me, Connolly is just an average player all around, and I’m not the only person who views him as the weak link in the offensive line. That’s a testament to just how good the Pats O-Line is, because Connolly is a, again, a capable starter. I just think that impending UFA Donald Thomas is better than Connolly and offers more side. I think the Patriots should at least be willing to run out a competition for the right guard spot.
If Connolly is unable to win, he should be able to receive significant playing time as the backup filling in for Ryan Wendell, Mankins, and Thomas when needed. I wish Connolly the best in his recovery from the surgery, and he continued to show good toughness and leadership. Even though it seems like I am slighting Connolly by wanting Thomas to have a shot at starting, I appreciate Connolly’s steady play on the inside and his leadership. But if you look at the grades on Pro Football Focus and watch the game tape closely, you will see that Connolly is probably not a better option as a starter than Thomas.
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