Mankins should make the 6-1 Patriots, who have the NFL's best record, even better. Not to mention that he is extremely well-liked in the locker room among players.
While it figures to take Mankins some time to get into game condition, by reporting on Nov. 2 -- earlier than anticipated -- Mankins positions himself to be ready for the stretch run.
One natural question is how the Patriots will handle his return in terms of playing time. That probably won't be a factor for at least a few weeks, and sometimes, those situations can shake themselves out with an injury or roster move. At this point, one would expect Dan Connolly to remain the starter at left guard.
The Patriots will also need to make a roster move to create room for Mankins on the roster, although it's possible the team will have a roster exemption for a short period of time as Mankins works his way back into the mix.