In the time leading up to the beginning of training camp, we will be bringing you previews for each New England Patriots positional group. Up next is the offensive line.
Offensive Line: (17)
Bryan Stork, Logan Mankins, Jon Halapio, Nate Solder, Chris Barker, Marcus Cannon, Braxston Cave, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes, Brice Schwab, Ryan Wendell, Jordan Devey, Elvis Fisher, Cameron Fleming, Chris Martin, Sebastian Vollmer
Contrary to popular belief, New England’s offensive line is looking pretty good as we move towards training camp. Yes, there are holes like every other position on the team, but as an overall group, they will be just fine in 2014.
Easily the strength of this bunch is the two starting offensive tackles. Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder are two of the best in the game, so we won’t really have to focus on them come training camp. Although Vollmer is coming off of a bad leg injury he sustained last year, but according to all reports, he should be just fine.
In addition to this, New England has Marcus Cannon as a great backup. Cannon is someone that could probably start in a number of places all around the league, so having a player of his caliber available to put in the game in case of injury is really terrific. Cameron Fleming, the rookie, will also be best suited at tackle, and I think he has a lot of potential to someday become a key cog on this team. I will definitely be monitoring his progress as camp begins.
The real positional battles we should be keeping an eye rest in the middle of the line. Logan Mankins’ job is safe for now, but Ryan Wendell, and Dan Connolly should be scared of getting cut after training camp. The Patriots have a few rookies ready to contribute to this team, and at a much lower price than Wendell and Connolly. Bryan Stork and Jon Halapio are the two main players that will be fighting with Wendell and Connolly, and I honestly think they have what it takes to knock those two veterans off the team.
Obviously Stork and Halapio are just rookies, but starting them over Wendell and Connolly might be a risk Bill Belichick has to take. The talent is there, and having veterans like Mankins, Solder, and Vollmer there will definitely help them in their development.
Wendell has good technique, but he is so small, sometimes he can’t help but get overpowered by opposing defensive lineman. Stork is bigger than Wendell, and if given some time, I think he could become just as good in his fundamentals, and ultimately become a much better player than Wendell. For Connolly’s situation, I am praying that the Pats decide to cut him free. He is getting way too much money for what he does on the field, and I honestly think they would be better off with a rookie taking his spot. Connolly hasn’t been the same ever since he switched from center to guard, getting beat constantly in both the passing game, and the running game.
Will all of this happen this year? I don’t know. It will be one of the most important battles to watch as training camps slowly approaches.