- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Turning our attention now to the offensive line for the next edition of 2012 positional review -- offensive line.
Key Statistics: Mankins missed 6 games due to injury, Connolly 2, and Vollmer 1.
Overview: The Patriots' offensive line entered 2012 with a number of key questions, but largely answered them with conviction. The loss of left tackle Matt Light was squared away by a fine second season from Solder, while Wendell turned into a standout plug-in center following Dan Koppen’s release. Connolly was forced to move to guard to fill the spot vacated by Brian Waters’ decision not to report to the team, and though Connolly had some struggles compared to his 2011 season, the line remained a strength. Mankins was recognized for his work with second team All-Pro honors, but was not as dominant as he has been in seasons past. He finished strong, however, with good showings in the playoffs. Given that the Patriots had three players starting at new positions this season, the line deserves credit for the transition. Brady was kept largely upright, and the running game was effective. Not to be overlooked is the conditioning of these linemen, as Wendell and Solder were among the NFL leaders in snaps played this season.
2013 Personnel Preview: Four starters are locked into contracts for 2013, with Vollmer the lone player set to hit free agency. Given his performance and fit within the system, he would seem to be a player the Patriots will be interested in bringing back. Thomas is also set to be a free agent, and has the ability to be a starter if signed elsewhere. The lone offensive lineman on the Patriots practice squad, Colin Miller, has not yet been signed to a reserve/future contract.