FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the biggest questions following the New England Patriots' trade of starting left guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers on Tuesday is how the team plans to fill the void. The players who figure to be affected most have been highlighted, and now the thought is to take things one step further.
By going through every drive of the Patriots' preseason, and charting/studying each line combination (see below), it helps put the picture of how the Patriots view their offensive linemen into sharper focus.
Some of the conclusions we have drawn:
Kline is the top option at left guard. In the two games Mankins played this preseason, Josh Kline was the player to follow him each time. Kline played 17 series this preseason -- seven at left guard and 10 at right guard -- so he fits on either side. The team's extended look at him at both guard spots probably provided some added comfort to management in trading Mankins. Kline is a player on the rise and one to learn more about as he now projects to a top role.
Cannon hasn't played at guard. Not a single snap at guard for four-year veteran Marcus Cannon, who has worked at right guard at times in practice and occasionally in regular-season games. Perhaps that changes in the preseason finale but Cannon seems most comfortable at tackle, which is where he's lined up for all 15 of his series. Something to watch for tonight.
Getting a feel for where Devey fits. Of the 30 series played by first-year offensive lineman Jordan Devey, only five came at left guard, all in the opening game when Mankins didn't play. Of the remaining series, 14 came at right guard, with the remaining 11 at left tackle with the second- and third-unit lines. Based on the way things have unfolded, Devey's best chance to break into the starting lineup would seemingly be if the team keeps Dan Connolly at center, potentially opening up the right guard spot for him.
Wendell exclusively at center. Incumbent center Ryan Wendell has played guard in the past, but he's exclusively been at center this preseason -- 13 series played (7 in the first half, 6 in the second half). He seemed to help his cause to retain the job with what appeared to be a solid performance last Friday against Carolina.
Connolly's work mostly at center, not right guard. Veteran Dan Connolly has played 13 series in the preseason -- 11 at center and two at right guard. The Patriots know what he can do at right guard, as he has started there in each of the last two seasons, so the preseason was a chance to see how he looked at center, with an injury to rookie center Bryan Stork (fourth round, Florida State) affecting plans. The Connolly vs. Wendell competition at center has been one of the most important in training camp and remains undecided, and with that comes the question of whether Stork could challenge upon his return to health.
Barker a potential benefactor of trade. With the trade of Mankins, second-year player Chris Barker could benefit. Based on the rotation of personnel this preseason, he appeared to be the third-team left guard behind Mankins and Kline. But with roster spots at a premium, Devey's ability to play left guard could also knock him off the roster if the Patriots are more comfortable with nine blockers than 10 on their 53-man roster.
WASHINGTON (Game 1)
-- Halftime --
PHILADELPHIA (Game 2)
-- Halftime --
CAROLINA (Game 3)