What was once always a position of strength for the Patriots now has some serious questions heading into the 2012 season.
Most of these questions have to do with the health of the team's expected starters, as only two of the positions along the line come with no injury concerns.
For starters, All-Pro offensive guard Logan Mankins is coming off of an ACL injury that he suffered during the Super Bowl, and although many believe that he will be ready to start the season, he was placed on the PUP list on Monday.
Unfortunately, he was not the only one.
Fourth-year offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was also placed on the PUP list on Monday, and it seems as though his nagging back injury may be more serious than initially though. After receiving what is being referred to as "minor" back surgery this offseason, many expected him to be completely ready to start camp on time.
But perhaps it is not so surprising that this "minor" procedure was not the wonder solution that everyone had hoped. That is because this was actually his second back surgery within the last six years after receiving a major back operation during his sophomore season at the University of Houston in 2006.
Both players are eligible to come off of the PUP list at any time during the preseason, but this does not mean that they will. And if Vollmer continues to have lingering back issues, his once-promising career could be in a sudden state of jeopardy.
Furthermore, nobody seems to have even the slightest clue as to what Brian Waters' plans are for the upcoming season. The 35-year-old perennial Pro-Bowler was a force on the offensive line for the Patriots last season after coming over from Kansas City, and the team needs him to come back this year in order to help shore up an already shaky unit.
Unfortunately, in typical Patriot fashion, the team has not given any indication as to what Waters will do, and this is all that we were left with after he was placed on the Did Not Report list on Wednesday: "I'm not really talking about it, you'll have to talk to the Patriots about it," Waters told the Boston Globe. "At this moment, I'm not really discussing the situation. Right now I'm just handling things between me and the team. If they want to talk to you, that's fine, but I'm not really talking about it."
So there's that...
Second-year offensive tackle Nate Solder is primed to take over for the incumbent Matt Light after a strong rookie season, and Dan Connolly is expected to retain his role as the starting center, although he may be pushed a bit by former starter Dan Koppen, who was surprisingly resigned this offseason.
But those are pretty much the only two sure things for the offensive line as it stands right now.
The team does have some nice depth along the line that has been built up throughout the last few seasons, but there are too many questions with the guys that matter most for anyone to feel comfortable about who gets to protect Tom Brady this season.