State of the Position is a new weekly Foxboro Blog feature that will examine the post-draft status of each position and take a look at what needs still need to be filled before the season opens up.
Today we will examine the offensive line.
Heading into the draft, nearly every draftnik, fan and even our own Foxboro Blog writers had the Patriots targeting an outside linebacker/defensive end with their first-round pick.
However, Bill Belichick went to the other side of the ball and selected Nate Solder, a 6-foot-8 left tackle from Colorado with the 17th pick.
While he’s still raw, Solder has the ability to be a Pro Bowl-caliber blindside protector for Tom Brady and beyond.
The selection of Solder would seem to signal the end of the Matt Light era who is expected to demand a multi-year deal for starter money.
In the fifth round, the Pats made a great value pick and chose Marcus Cannon, a mammoth tackle/guard who slipped from the second round because of his recent diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Even if he is unable to contribute this season, Cannon should be a starter in 2012 at either guard spot and would add a physical presence to an otherwise small interior line.
That being said, the biggest question on the offensive line lies at the left guard spot.
All-Pro Logan Mankins was franchised for the second-straight year, and it is uncertain whether he will play or hold out again.
If Light is allowed to walk, I think the Pats should and will give consideration to trying to work out a longterm deal with Mankins.
If he is re-signed, the Patriots could have a potentially dominant line with Solder and Mankins on the left and Cannon and Vollmer on the right.
With that potential lineup, the team still has good depth with Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger and Ryan Wendell along the interior. Connolly performed well as a starter last year and can play either guard spot. Ohrnberger and Wendell have spent several years in the system and should compete for a backup spot.
The one position that could be addressed in the offseason would be center.
Longtime starter Dan Koppen is entering the last year of his contract and I would consider him the weak spot in the line. He should finish out his contract, but I wouldn’t expect him to be brought back.
Overall, I think the Pats did a great job solidifying their line for the future and turned a potential weakness into a strength.
State of the Position Grade: B+