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Things lined up well for Patriots

The Patriots' short-term and long-term focus on the offensive line is under the spotlight in a piece now posted on ESPNBoston.com.

"One of the most challenging aspects of running a team is striking the balance between remaining competitive in the present while also building for the future. The New England Patriots have done it better than most, which is highlighted by what has recently unfolded along their offensive line.

"Uncertainty on the left side, coupled with advancing age in four of the five spots up front, made the line one of the crucial areas for management to address.

"So what did it do?

"In a case of all pieces of the puzzle coming together, the Patriots returned their top five players from the end of 2010, while feeding the pipeline with a potential left tackle of the future (first-round draft pick Nate Solder) and a highly rated right guard who unexpectedly slipped in the draft (fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon).

"Brilliant. When Patriots management is lauded for shrewd maneuvering, it's for reasons such as these."