FOXBORO, Mass. — Steve Maneri might have taken the biggest leap of his young NFL career last Thursday when he earned his first start at right tackle.
Maneri had worked almost exclusively on the left side at practice, so his ability to display some versatility should give him a better chance to earn a spot on the Patriots' roster.
The 23-year-old has moved up the depth chart in the last week and a half, supplanting Mark LeVoir as the fourth tackle behind Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. However, with LeVoir's experience on both sides and some more work at guard, Maneri needed to show his value at more than one position to earn one of the eight-to-10 roster spots for offensive linemen.
"When you're not a starter in this league, you're really pretty much a swing tackle, no matter what it is," said Maneri, who spent most of last season on New England's practice squad. "Because whatever opens up, that's what you have to play. So it really hasn't been much of a deal to me at all. I play left and right. I think I'm equally comfortable on both sides. It doesn't really matter what side it is."
Maneri is more than used to transition in his football life. After playing exclusively as a tight end at Temple, Maneri signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He said he had options to play as a tackle or a tight end at different spots across the league, but he believed his long-term potential was higher as a tackle, a decision he has definitely embraced.
Maneri, who only played one year of football in high school, was mostly used as a blocking tight end at Temple, so he has plenty of experience in the run game. Like many, though, the toughest transition to the NFL game has been pass blocking, which he has worked hard to improve at practice, and he has been happy with the evolution, though he understood there's a long way still to go.
"I got fat all of a sudden," said Maneri, who is listed at 290 pounds, which is 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight during his senior season at Temple. "When I first did it, I was just trying to learn the offense, trying to learn the technique as a tackle. It was completely different.
"I thought it would be in my best interest for my potential in the NFL to be a tackle. So I chose that road, and it's worked out for me so far."