On the first day of New England Patriots training camp, recently rehired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia preached the importance of continuity within his unit.
That unit now more than likely will begin the regular season without two of its five projected starters.
The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride on Sunday shared some unfortunate news regarding guard Shaq Mason and tackle Sebastian Vollmer, reporting Mason is dealing with a broken hand and Vollmer likely is headed to injured reserve as he nurses an undisclosed ailment.
CSNNE.com’s Tom E. Curran later reported a nagging hip injury that could sideline Vollmer for the entire season, and NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport also chimed in with a report that the 32-year-old had undergone another shoulder surgery.
Vollmer has been on the physically unable to perform list since the beginning of training camp and has yet to practice. Mason, on the other hand, had been a full participant before he surprisingly was held out of Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
Mason and Vollmer were expected to start at right guard and right tackle, respectively, this season. With both now sidelined, those duties should fall to Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon, who formed the right side of the line against Chicago.
Here’s a look at the new projected starting offensive line in the wake of Sunday’s news:
Left tackle: Nate Solder
The Patriots’ best lineman appears to back to full strength after a torn biceps cost him all but four games last season. With Vollmer out, keeping Solder healthy will be of paramount importance.
Left guard: Joe Thuney
Thuney was very impressive in his first NFL training camp and has been running with the first-team offense for weeks now. The third-round draft pick, who was a beast in each of his first two preseason games, also can play tackle if need be.
Center: David Andrews
Andrews appears to have the edge here on Bryan Stork, though Stork’s ability to play pretty much anywhere on the line should be enough to earn him a roster spot. Andrews played in 14 games as an undrafted rookie last season, starting 11.
Right guard: Josh Kline
Kline took a back seat to Mason once the latter returned from the PUP list last month, but he’s no stranger to starting. He did so in 13 of the 14 games he played in last season. One thing to watch, though: He appeared to injure his shoulder in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, and his effectiveness as a blocker seemed to dip as a result.
Right tackle: Marcus Cannon
Cannon started a career-high eight games last season while seeing time at both tackle spots. He has been the Patriots’ first-team right tackle throughout the summer with Vollmer unavailable, and it appears likely he’ll remain there for the foreseeable future.
Backups: Guard Jonathan Cooper, tackle LaAdrian Waddle, tackle Cameron Fleming, guard Ted Karras, guard Tre’ Jackson (currently on PUP), guard Chris Barker, tackle Keavon Milton, guard Jon Halapio
Vollmer’s absence makes Waddle the backup at both tackle spots. The Patriots could decide to keep Fleming, who has struggled at times this preseason, or lean on Thuney or Stork as an emergency fourth tackle. It would be surprising if Barker, Milton or Halapio survived roster cuts.
The big question mark here is Cooper, whom the Patriots acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in the Chandler Jones trade. He injured his foot during the first week of training camp and hasn’t practiced since, and if he is not good to go come Week 1, New England is in big trouble depth-wise at guard.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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