MacMullan on Mankins' evolution

In a piece now posted on ESPNBoston.com, columnist Jackie MacMullan writes on Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins and his evolution as a player.

Change is unavoidable. It has been impossible, for instance, for Logan Mankins to ignore the subtle shift in the way his body responds (or doesn't respond).

Some other differences have been more jolting, a shock to the system, like sticking your feet in a bucket of frigid water. That's how it felt when he lost his longtime partners on the offensive line, Matt Light and Dan Koppen; one retired, one released, just like that.

Like it or not, the football life of Logan Mankins is evolving.

"It's a little different," Mankins conceded. "I played next to those guys for seven seasons. We've been through a lot together, and all of a sudden, they're gone. I went from the third oldest to the oldest (on the line) very fast."

The newly anointed "elder statesman" is the anchor charged with protecting Tom Brady against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans in Sunday's playoff game at Gillette Stadium. The O-line's job is paramount to the success of the Patriots, who have learned when Brady is under duress, his job becomes infinitely more complicated.

MacMullan speaks with some coaches and teammates from Mankins' past for the piece, which can be read here.