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Sunday, November 4, 2012
O-line snapshot via playing time

By Mike Reiss

One of the big storylines in the preseason was the Patriots’ offensive line and how it would hold up given all the question marks.

Could Nate Solder fill in for the retired Matt Light at left tackle?

Would four-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins be healthy enough to go at left guard?

Who wins the center competition – Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell or Nick McDonald?

Is Brian Waters returning at right guard?

Would Sebastian Vollmer be healthy at right tackle?

At each spot, there was a significant concern, or at the least, a lack of certainty as to how things would unfold.

Now, at the halfway point of the season, the picture has come into the focus and the offensive line has been a strong point for the Patriots.

With this in mind, here is a look at the playing time percentages for each lineman, followed by some quick-hit thoughts:

C Ryan Wendell – 100 percent
LT Nate Solder – 99.8 percent
RT Sebastian Vollmer – 90.2 percent
RG Dan Connolly – 72.9 percent
LG Logan Mankins – 60.8 percent
LG/RG Donald Thomas – 54.7 percent
LG Nick McDonald – 13.0 percent
RT Marcus Cannon – 12.4 percent

Quick-hit thoughts: Wendell, who came up through the practice squad, has settled in nicely at center. The Patriots are close to a 50 percent in the shotgun, and we can only recall two miscommunications/misfires. … Solder, the 2011 first-round pick, has been impressive at left tackle. There has been no shortage of challenges with some of the edge rushers the team has faced. … Vollmer was eased into the mix nicely, rotating the first two games of the season with Marcus Cannon before assuming a full-time role. What a difference when he’s in the lineup. …  Connolly has missed time because of a concussion and then an illness, but has settled in at Waters’ old right guard spot. The initial plan was likely for him to be at center, but when Waters didn’t report, that altered things. … Mankins was ready for the opener, but since Week 4, has been in and out of the lineup because of hip and calf injuries. … If there was a “12th player award”, Thomas would be a good candidate. He’s been an unsung performer, filling in at both guard spots on days when the Patriots have had strong rushing performances. … McDonald filled in at guard against the Jets when depth was thinned because of Connolly’s illness and is a valuable depth option behind Thomas. … Cannon has been the third tackle and most recently saw time in the power package as an extra tight end.