The Patriots offense is centered on a consistent, dangerous passing attack. They were third in the league in total offense.
Contract issues and injuries may inhibit the Patriots ability to maintain their offensive mantra, but the team is still extremely dangerous and explosive offensively.
Much is in the air with Logan Mankins having yet to make his decision whether or not to join the Patriots for the full season.
Arguably the best left guard in the NFL, he is invaluable as a strong blocker who has quick feet and the ability to block screens, which coach Bill Belichick treasures.
With Mankins, the offensive line is extremely threatening.
Even without him, the line is still a tremendously viable group. Sebastian Vollmer is very talented, demonstrating his knack as a pass blocker by shutting down Dwight Freeney last season.
Holding the center position would be Dan Koppen, a consistent, smart and talented lineman.
Another player who may play a large role in this line is Rich Ohrnberger.
Like Vollmer, Ohrnberger is a big, European lineman who has the potential to be a future stud in the line. Hopefully he can pan out as Vollmer did.
Again, this is if Mankins doesn’t play.
Neal is an exceedingly talented blocker, but he is frequently injured. Another option the Patriots have is Dan Connolly. Connolly is an average pass blocker who took many snaps for the Patriots at right guard last season.
Still, he showed improvement over the course of the year and boasts the lower body strength to surge forward when run blocking.
Kaczur and Connolly will split time at left guard if Logan does not return.
Kaczur is a big player and a fundamentally sound blocker, although he is vulnerable to a quick inside jab step and a swim move to the outside.
At guard, this weakness will be less of an issue, as there is less space to sprint around him when he’s playing on the inside.
If Mankins is re-signed, Nick Kaczur, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer would likely be the players rotating in to give other linemen breathers.
In all, this Patriots line is very talented, with or without Logan Mankins. I
predict that Vollmer makes a Pro Bowl within the next three seasons, and eventually takes over for Matt Light at left tackle.
If New England does find a way to resign Mankins, then the line will be one of the best in the business, although they have the potential to continue being a key, powerful cog in this Patriot offense.
There have been rumors that the Pittsburgh Steelers are interested in trading a top pass rushing linebacker in LaMarr Woodley for Mankins.
After losing Alan Faneca to the New York Jets a few years ago, the Steelers would love to have a guard of Logan’s caliber once again.
If this deal goes through, both teams would benefit. The Patriots would still have a strong offensive line without Mankins, and the Steelers would still have a top-notch core of linebackers without Woodley.
New England and Pittsburgh would both improve, gaining skill in positions where they are currently weak or lacking depth.
Grade: With Mankins, A; without Mankins, B+.
For Full Report, Visit New England Sports Online: The Ultimate Guide to the 2010-2011 New England Patriots