In cobbling together my 2010 preseason All-AFC East team, what struck me was how much left guard has changed in the division.
Two years ago, left guard looked like a loaded position. Every team had a notable player there.
The New England Patriots had budding star Logan Mankins in place. The New York Jets signed perennial Pro Bowler Alan Faneca. The Miami Dolphins identified Justin Smiley as critical to their rebuilding process, signing him minutes into the free-agency period. The Buffalo Bills had Derrick Dockery. He wasn't a bulldozer, but he meant enough to the Bills to give him a seven-year, $49 million contract in 2007.
Now look at AFC East left guards.
Bills sophomore Andy Levitre was my pick for the preseason All-AFC East roster. He was the 51st overall draft choice last year and started 16 games. Crazy as this might seem, that marginal exposure makes him the second-most experienced left guard in the division. He's the lone incumbent.
Who else is there?
Dolphins roughneck Richie Incognito has been a round and is a known quantity, but he was discharged by two of the NFL's worst teams. The St. Louis Rams, tired of his volatile antics, waived him. The Bills picked him up then declined to negotiate with the restricted free agent after the season.
The Jets' weakest link now is at left guard. They released Faneca and drafted Vladimir Ducasse in the second round. But Ducasse's transition into the NFL has been difficult. Matt Slauson, inactive for all but three games as a rookie last year, won the job by default.
The Patriots are down to third-stringer Dan Connolly. He is entering his sixth year as a pro and had four starts to his name. Mankins is an unsigned restricted free agent. His intended replacement, Nick Kaczur, has been sidelined with a back injury that required surgery.