NFL context: Patriots & offensive line

June, 25, 2010
6/25/10
7:45
AM ET
Fifth in an ongoing series looking at each position on the Patriots roster and how it is viewed when compared to the rest of the NFL:

Starters: Matt Light (LT), Logan Mankins (LG), Dan Koppen (C), Stephen Neal (RG), Sebastian Vollmer (RT)

Top backups: Nick Kaczur (LG/RT), Mark LeVoir (OT), Thomas Welch (OT), Ted Larsen (C/G), Dan Connolly (C/G), Rich Ohrnberger (C/G), Ryan Wendell (C/G), George Bussey (G/T)

NFL chatter: The Patriots ask their linemen to make sight adjustments based on the defensive alignment as much as any team in the NFL, which puts a premium on smarts. The inclusion of Vollmer in the starting lineup looks promising for the future as this is one of the league's older units. Mankins is entering his prime and is a two-time Pro Bowler, so if he's not part of the mix (contract dispute) it's a hit in both the short- and long-term. Almost every NFL team has one significant personnel question on the offensive line (e.g. the Jets and replacing left guard Alan Faneca; the Cowboys and replacing left tackle Flozell Adams), so the Patriots aren't alone.

Overall depth chart: The Patriots go four deep at tackle, proving in the past that they can win with any of the top four in the lineup. That's impressive. The depth doesn't appear as strong on the interior, where Dan Koppen has struggled at times against bigger nose tackles. The future on the interior is tied to the development of Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Wendell, George Bussey and Ted Larsen.

Final analysis: Top 10 group in the NFL.

Other positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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