Closer look at Patriots' guard spot

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the Patriots placing starting right guard Stephen Neal on season-ending injured reserve today, it shines a spotlight on the team's remaining personnel at the position.

The return of left guard Logan Mankins from his contract standoff in early November helps the team absorb the blow of losing Neal, because that allowed five-year veteran Dan Connolly to move to right guard. Connolly, who had been filling in for Mankins, started in place of Neal the last three games at right guard.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have had second-year player Ryan Wendell as their top center/guard backup on game day. Quinn Ojinnaka, who can play tackle and guard, has been the other reserve lineman.

The Patriots also have 2009 fourth-round draft choice Rich Ohrnberger, who has been a healthy scratch and projects more to 2011 when Mankins could depart as a free agent.

When assessing this loss for the Patriots, it's obviously not ideal for the team, but there is enough quality depth so that the impact is not that great.