Looking deeper along the line

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
11:31
AM ET
In a piece for the "Around the League" blog on NFL.com, editor Gregg Rosenthal looks at the top area of concern for all 32 teams in the NFL. His choice for the Patriots: Offensive line.

"There are more questions on the offensive line than when camp started," Rosenthal writes. "Guard Brian Waters is nowhere to be found, Robert Gallery retired and tackle Sebastian Vollmer is hurt. Players take on different roles daily."

The Patriots join the Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Ravens and Steelers as teams Rosenthal identifies as those with offensive line as a top concern.

Here are a few quick-hit thoughts on where things stand with the Patriots' line:

1. Nate Solder is locked in at left tackle. The 2011 first-round draft choice has had some ups and downs in training camp and in the preseason opener, and there will probably be some more as the team makes the transition from veteran Matt Light to Solder.

2. With Sebastian Vollmer still on the physically unable to perform list, second-year man Marcus Cannon has stepped in at right tackle. The Patriots like Cannon's promise, but it's been a challenging camp/preseason opener for Cannon. This is likely the top area of concern for the coaching staff now.

3. Good competition at center between veteran Dan Koppen and fourth-year man Ryan Wendell over the last couple of weeks, with Dan Connolly more locked in at Brian Waters' old right guard spot. Don't see a clear-cut leader at this point between Koppen and Wendell, but it's easy to see the coaching staff is high on Wendell.

4. Left guard Logan Mankins' return to the practice field this week is a strong indication he should be ready for the season-opener, which was previously in question.

5. Nick McDonald's versatility as a five-position player should help his chances to stick as a reserve. On the flip side, if the coaching staff doesn't see Koppen as a starter at center, it could hurt his chances to stick on the roster because he's a center-only option.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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