Oh how happy I am that football is right around the corner. Why? Um, because the Red Sox have been more depressing to watch these last few weeks than the Celtics before the Garnett trade.
Today we focus on the offensive line. A group that I still hold a great deal of responsibility on for the Pats losing the Super Bowl against the Giants and for Brady going down last season. This group somehow managed to be the 3rd best offensive line in the NFL helping an offense to average 365.4 yards per game last season while giving the Pats their best rushing attack in 20 years in terms of rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and average yards per carry.
C – Dan Koppen (67) – The anchor of the offensive line, Koppen is one of two guys on the offensive line that you really don’t worry about. Since joining the team he’s starting 87 of 88 games and been the center for two Super Bowl victories and countless playoff games. Again, no worries at center. Al Johnson (60) who was signed in the offseason from Arizona is a serviceable backup if Koppen goes down.
LG – Logan Mankins (70) – This is the other spot on the offensive line that I’m really not worried about. The contract distractions that surround Mankins are really the only time you hear his name. He’s a solid offensive lineman and the fact that his contract is almost up, look for another solid season as he looks for his payday. His backup is Russ Hochstein (71) who sees time all over the roster including twice last year at fullback.
LT – Matt Light (72) – Many, including myself, point to Matt Light’s olé technique in the Super Bowl against the Giants for the Pats losing that game. I know we’re harder on the guy than we should be, but it seems that any big holding penalty it’s his name being called or it’s him being bowled over as the defense makes a big play in the back field. Wesley Britt (65) can be called upon if Light or Nick Kaczur go down.
RG – Stephen Neal (61) – Neal has battled injuries and after coming off the PUP list in October of last year, started the last nine games of the Patriots season. Ryan O’Callaghan (68) who was on IR all of last season will serve as Neal’s backup making this position shaky at best.
RT – Nick Kaczur (77) / Sebastian Vollmer (76) – This is a true camp battle that could see either one of these guys come out on top. Vollmer is a former tight end who actually played left tackle (a more difficult position) in college. A second round pick he should really push Kaczur to perform better this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if either one of these guys won the battle.
I know I’m missing a few guys, but they’ll probably be cut anyways so who cares.
Tomorrow we hit up the D-Line followed by Linebackers, D-Backs and wrap up with Special Teams on Friday.