- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If there is one question that seems to be on the forefront of Patriots followers' minds, it is how the offensive line is coming together. After a preseason in which quarterback Tom Brady took some big hits, there is concern in some circles about the protection up front.
The line's senior statesman, four-time Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, took time to answer questions from reporters on that topic and more on Thursday.
"It's coming together. We've had a couple guys miss a lot of time, so we're still working on it," Mankins said, referencing himself and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
"We have a lot of work to do between here and Sunday, and hopefully we can put our best out on the field. We have to trust in each other and work together. We're going against a good team. They are a young defense, very athletic, very fast, and they play really hard. It's going to be a big challenge."
Titans defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has already noted some of the Patriots' struggles up front, and told The Tennessean that there are a "couple weaknesses" to potentially exploit (link here).
Part of the challenge for the Patriots has been playing without Mankins and Vollmer. Mankins played in just one preseason game, totaling 11 snaps, as he returns from offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL. Vollmer also played in just one preseason contest, playing nine snaps as he gets back in the groove after reportedly undergoing offseason surgery on his back.
Mankins acknowledged that he's just at the six-month mark since his surgery, and earlier this offseason he wasn't sure he'd be ready for the season-opener. He looks primed to play Sunday, and will be counting on his conditioning to carry him as he makes the big jump from hardly playing in the preseason to potentially playing all four quarters.
In last year's opener, he had Matt Light to his left at tackle, and Dan Koppen to his right at center. This year, it projects to be Nate Solder at left tackle and Ryan Wendell at center.
Mankins said he's already gaining the same type of confidence in his new bookends as his former teammates.
"The main thing is you do your job and trust them to do theirs and everything will be fine. It's when we start worrying about the guys next to you is doing is when things get messed up," he relayed. "It's the three of us seeing it through the same set of eyes. There should only be one call, and that's the right call. If we start making too many calls, and guys are saying too many things that we don't need out there, it gets guys confused. We have to be on the same page and trust that call and everyone do what it says."
A few other soundbites from Mankins:
Koppen's release. "It was sad to see Dan go. He's a good guy. I was teammates with him for seven years and this training camp. We've hung out together outside of football and spent some time together. It's always tough to see a guy you like and enjoy playing next to go. We all know it's part of the business and it happens to all of us at some point."
Brian Waters not reporting. "I don't want to get into that too much. He's not on the team right now. Brian did a great job for us last year and that's all I'm going to say."
On how his knee feels the second day, after a practice. "It's good right now. Still getting lots of ice, trying to take care of it the best I can. Hopefully it feels good all year."
On doubts of being ready for the season opener. "Of course. I never knew how fast I would heal and everything would progress. So far it's been good."