Patriots O-line gets first look without Light, Mankins, Waters

Patriots O-line gets first look without Light, Mankins, Waters
August 10, 2012, 6:59 am
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots' offensive line is a work in progress.

They'll tell you that every position is always a work in progress. But realistically, without Matt Light, Logan Mankins, and Brian Waters, they have some holes to fill.

The first glimpse of how Bill Belichick will fill those holes was evident on Thursday night in the team's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.

The first offensive line that Belichick threw on the field consisted of Nate Solder at left tackle, Donald Thomas at left guard, Dan Koppen at center, Dan Connolly at right guard, and Marcus Cannon at right tackle.

It was a first possession that saw Brady get pressured, and even strip-sacked by Saints defensive end Will Smith at his own 40-yard line, to give the Saints the ball, and the eventual 3-0 lead on an ensuing field goal.

"We knew going into the game that they were just going to give us basic protection," said Smith afterwards. "So we just wanted to get a good rush, the four-man rush that we have been working on all camp. I got a good angle on him and got past them. It's always good to get a sack, especially against Brady. It helped our team score, so, we got points on the board."

Smith was knocked wide out of the pocket by Solder, but as Brady held the ball, Smith eventually got back into the play and hit Brady hard.

Solder said afterwards that he didn't remember the play specifically, but did admit that he needs to improve blocking Brady's back side.

"There's a lot of things that I felt more comfortable with," said Solder. "With that being said, there's a lot of things that I know I need to improve, because I've seen some of the good competition out there. I know that maybe I'm not to where I want to be yet."

In the Patriots' second possession, Belichick replaced Koppen with Ryan Wendell at center. He stayed with Wendell in that spot with the top unit for the rest of the game.

Belichick wouldn't go into specifics about any movement on the offensive line.

"We played a lot of people at every position," said Belichick afterwards. "So, I don't think there was any position that we didn't play a lot of people. That's what these games are for, to evaluate the players."

Smith's sack wasn't the only sign of pressure that the Saints put on the Patriots Thursday night. But still, he doesn't think New England's offensive line will look like it does now, when the regular season begins.

"It's still early," said Smith. "They're banged up. I don't think that's going to be their starting lineup come Week 1. But we know they're gonna be a good team and possibly a team we're gonna see later on down the road."