- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Matt Kopa
POSITION: Offensive tackle
2011 STATS: Spent majority of season on Patriots' practice squad
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 20%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Kopa is tops among under-the-radar players with the potential of making the 53-man roster. The Patriots have often shown a willingness to carry a fourth offensive tackle on the roster, even in favor of a more experienced player at another position. Early last season, Thomas Welch was on and off the roster as another reserve option at tackle. Wesley Britt also held that role for several seasons, while Steve Maneri was claimed off waivers after final cuts in 2010 to serve in that capacity. With starting tackle Sebastian Vollmer having missed significant portions of last season with injuries, which also kept him out of organized team activities this spring, Kopa could be in line for a spot on the 53-man roster after spending most of last season on the practice squad.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: The Patriots have a glut of interior offensive linemen on the roster, although those ranks were thinned during practices this spring by the excused absence of guard Brian Waters and the ongoing recovery of guard Logan Mankins from offseason knee surgery. The question for the Patriots will be if Robert Gallery, who will likely be the top option at left guard this preseason until Mankins returns, can also serve as a backup tackle, his former position. If so, then Kopa's chances of making the roster will be reduced. During organized team activities, Gallery appeared to be focusing on playing guard.