Mankins braces for challenge on line

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots faced a string of tough defensive lines during the 2012 regular season, including the Houston Texans, who boast a front that includes a Defensive Player of the Year front-runner in defensive end J.J. Watt.

Guard Logan Mankins said on Thursday that countering Houston's defensive line is going to be a big challenge for the offensive line this Sunday.

"It's going to be really tough," he said. "You've got maybe the best defensive lineman in the league in J.J. Watt, and then you've got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman, so those two are very tough. Then you put all four of them out there at the same time, and they're a tough matchup for anyone. You see the problems they give teams every week."

Specific to Watt, Mankins said he's the total package as a defensive lineman.

"It always starts with [that] he's got all the physical tools," he said. "He's big, strong, fast and then he plays relentless. He's a high motor guy that hustles a lot and he's got a great playing style. That's why he's good."

Mankins noted that having faced Watt once already helps a little bit in their preparation for him this week, but Sunday will present a new challenge.

"It's going to be a new challenge every time," he continued. "But I think to play against him, you see him on film and you say that's a pretty good player, and then to go against him, you really know what he's capable of doing. It helps a little bit, but it still comes down to one man versus him, and either you've got it or you don't."