FOXBORO, Mass. — Forget everything you thought you knew about the New England Patriots’ offense.
In sending Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday, the Patriots traded an offensive captain and look primed to return — at least part time — to a two-tight end offense this season. The Patriots now must find a new starting left guard to replace Mankins, and they might not have to rely on a wide receiver-heavy offensive attack.
Based on preseason play, Jordan Devey is one option to replace Mankins on the starting offensive line. Devey played every snap in the Patriots’ first two preseason games, and he started Friday night against the Carolina Panthers, as well. Devey has experience playing tackle and guard, and he played left tackle, left guard, right tackle and right guard this summer.
Fourth-year pro Marcus Cannon also could replace Mankins as a starter. Cannon is on the last year of his rookie deal, but he has experience at both tackle and guard. Cannon, at 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, started at right tackle last season after Sebastian Vollmer went down with a broken leg.
Second-year pro Josh Kline, who went undrafted out of Kent State last year, started one game at left guard in 2013 when Mankins moved to left tackle after starter Nate Solder suffered a concussion. The Patriots also could elect to start one of their three 2014 draft picks — fourth-rounders Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming or sixth-rounder Jon Halapio.
There already were question marks on the Patriots’ offensive line at center and right guard going into training camp. Ryan Wendell, who started at center last season, has played sparingly with the starters this summer. Dan Connolly has received the bulk of reps at center with the first-team offense after starting at right guard last season.
Solder and Vollmer are guaranteed to be starters, but we might not find out until Week 1, when the Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins, who will start at both guard positions and at center. Connolly and Wendell have the most experience, while Cannon, Kline and Stork have the most upside. Fleming played right tackle at Stanford, but he has received reps at guard in practice.
The Patriots might not decide on a starting five until midway through the season.
As for New England’s haul in the deal, the Patriots added a 2015 fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright, who will change the team’s offense as well. The Patriots haven’t had a “move” tight end with Wright’s skill set since Aaron Hernandez was released after being arrested last summer. Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns for the Bucs after going undrafted out of Rutgers last season.
If the Patriots elect to use more two-tight end sets, with Wright and Rob Gronkowski, it could mean fewer snaps for a third wide receiver, whether that’s Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins or Brandon LaFell.
Wright allows the Patriots to use more deception in their offense, which they sorely lacked last season. With two tight ends on the field, the Patriots can be dangerous in the passing and running games. Wright isn’t known as an accomplished blocker, since he played wide receiver in college, but he should be better than a wideout.
The Patriots are never short on surprises, but this move is among their most shocking in recent memory. Mankins’ skills had appeared to be declining after he played through a torn ACL in 2011, but he still was one of the Patriots’ top offensive linemen. With longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia gone, as well as Mankins, the Patriots’ offensive line might not be as consistent as it has been in Tom Brady’s tenure under center.
Photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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