FOXBORO -- Now that the Patriots have traded Logan Mankins in an-out-of-nowhere deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are loads of questions that need answering. One of them: Who is going to play left guard on the Patriots offensive line?
Bill Belichick has good depth in that area of his roster, but obviously he doesn't have any player to fill that spot with the credentials or experience that Mankins has.
An initial look at the team's list of interior offensive linemen on the roster shows the following: veteran guard Dan Connolly, veteran center Ryan Wendell, versatile fourth-year player Marcus Cannon, second-year linemen Josh Kline and Jordan Devey, rookie guard Jon Halapio and rookie center Bryan Stork. Braxton Cave, Chris Barker, and injured rookie Chris Martin were also still in the mix for the offensive line at the time of the trade.
The most reasonable options to fill Mankins' shoes, in my opinion, would come down to three of the above: Connolly, Cannon or Kline.
Connolly would be the most experienced choice of the bunch. He was a mainstay at right guard over the course of the last two seasons and a move to the left side would be feasible for a player who knows the offense as well as Connolly does. He received the majority of his training camp reps this summer at right guard and center, essentially splitting time in the middle with New England's center of the last two seasons, Wendell. Stork's injury early in camp shifted Connolly to a position where he started 11 games in 2011.
Cannon may be the easiest fill-in here. Judging by what we've seen in training camp, it seemed as though he was New England's sixth lineman. By moving Cannon in at left guard, it would allow the Patriots to keep their 2013 offensive line more closely in tact. Connolly would be freed to remain at right guard and Wendell (or Stork, when healthy) could play center. Cannon has good feet and has shown well as a tackle, but he has also played inside and may be able to fill the gap left by Mankins' departure.
Kline is an intriguing potential replacement for Mankins. The undrafted second-year player out of Kent State made a huge leap in his rookie season, going from the practice squad to the starter at left guard late last season in a game against the Dolphins. When Nate Solder had to miss the contest with an injury, Mankins moved to left tackle and Kline subbed in at guard. A state champion high school wrestler, Kline is a good athlete -- he's played tight end in preseason games this year -- and could be the best fit at left guard.
Devey has played more snaps than any other offensive lineman for the Patriots this preseason and could get the nod, but the above three players seem to be more solid options in my eyes.
Halapio, a sixth-rounder this year, has seen very sparing playing time in the preseason and could be a candidate for the practice squad.