(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Donald Thomas
2011 STATS: 10 games (1 start)
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 30%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Interior offensive line is one of the deepest positions on the Patriots' roster, but it is not without question marks. The team was without both of its Pro Bowl guards during organized team activities. Logan Mankins is still recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and there have been conflicting reports on whether he will be able to participate in training camp, or even be ready for the start of the regular season. Brian Waters was excused from mandatory for personal reasons, leaving the 35-year-old's status somewhat in question for training camp. With both Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly back in the fold, and Robert Gallery added through free agency, Thomas will have to beat out Ryan Wendell or Nick McDonald, and then hope that the team keeps an extra lineman as depth behind Mankins and Waters.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: Thomas was an in-season addition to the roster and carved himself a role on the active roster, contributing as a sixth offensive lineman and fullback at various points. When injuries thinned the offensive line late in the season, Thomas received a start at left guard against the Dolphins. Yet, this could be a case where the team thanks Thomas for his fill-in contributions in 2011, but chooses to move on in 2012. If the Patriots felt that Thomas was ready to take the next step and compete for a starting role, it is unlikely that they would have brought in Gallery, or re-upped Koppen and Connolly. Now, Thomas is buried on the depth chart, and his best chances of making a 53-man roster will be elsewhere in the NFL.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: G/C Ryan Wendell, G/C Nick McDonald, G/C Jamey Richard