With America’s favorite quarterback turning 35 today (completing the hottie-birthday-trifecta along with gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte and model Karlie Kloss), much of the focus in Patriots’ training camp has been on the volatility of the offensive line. Suddenly the bedrock of Brady’s protection for his entire career seems like it may have a few cracks. Training camp hasn’t exactly patched them up. With Nate Solder (tackle) and Dan Koppen (center) both involved in separate fights, the risk of injury to an already dinged up group keeps climbing. A quick look at the key players:
Matt Light: Gone but not forgotten, Brady’s reliable left tackle is now an NFL analyst for ESPN.
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Nate Soldier: Light’s heir is in his third year with the Pats. Caused a fight with Brandon Spikes on Wednesday that led to Spikes limping off the field. Hopefully his season will be more reflective of the Gillette parking spot award he previously won for his strong offseason workouts.
The Dans (Connolly and Koppen): Dan Connolly, he of the 71-year kickoff return, signed a deal with the Patriots in March, which led most analysts to assume he’d be the one with his gluteus maximus in Brady’s face this fall, replacing Dan Koppen who was out for nearly all of 2011 with an ankle injury and turning 32 years young this year. However, both have been seeing action in center during training camp. Connolly is a versatile player and has rotated through positions when other players have been injured – perhaps this is the plan for 2012 with the Pats starting Koppen, Brady’s apparently preferred center. This uncertainty could be the source of Koppen’s feisty training camp behavior. Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald have also seen time at center.
Sebastian Vollmer: The Pats’ starting right tackle is currently on the PUP list for a chronic back injury.
Logan Mankins: Another name on the PUP list, Mankins is out following knee surgery from an injury sustained in the AFC Championship game. Could be replaced by the versatile Connolly.
Other names in the news mix:
Derek Dennis: Rookie guard from Temple who was signed by the Pats yesterday after being cut by Miami on day one of training camp.
Dustin Waldron: Rookie tackle from Portland State claimed Thursday off waivers from Miami.
Jamey Richard: The recently acquired (from Indy) lineman was placed on injured reserve due to a concussion.
Marcus Cannon: Has played right tackle during camp, in the place of Vollmer. Cannon is limited in experience due to both the lockout and cancer treatments in the summer of 2011 that rendered him able to play in only seven games.
Robert Gallery: Saw playing time at right guard on Thursday. The former Raider can also play tackle.
With all of the changes and uncertainty, it’s a good thing the Patriots have three-decade league veteran Dante Scarnecchia coaching the O-line!