I had a chance to speak with SI.com columnist and former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker about the impact Logan Mankins' absence will have on the New England Patriots.
Mankins, a two-time Pro Bowler at left guard, remains unsigned and not in training camp. He'll miss his second preseason game Thursday night, when the Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome, but unless the tenor changes, he'll miss all four exhibitions and regular-season games.
Mankins became so disgusted with contract negotiations, he publicly demanded a trade before camp. His agent last week said the Patriots "have totally lost this player mentally."
"He's their best offensive lineman," said Tucker, who spent six seasons in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Patriots. "In addition to that, he's really kind of the tempo-setter from a physicality standpoint. When you're another team playing the Patriots, the guy you're worried about really putting a lick on you, really finishing a play, really knocking you out is Logan Mankins.
"The other guys have all been solid players, and I'm hearing great things about Sebastian Vollmer, but in terms of a guy that's really going to intimidate the opposition, it's Logan. He's their hammer. They're going to miss that presence if he's not playing, because I'm a true believer that every offensive line needs at least one of those guys, and the more guys like that the better. That type of stuff really wears on a defense."
Tucker lauded Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and noted that whomever plays left guard for the Patriots will do a passable job to the naked eye.
That said, Tucker views Mankins as a difference-maker.
"Because pass blocking one-on-one has never been Logan's strength, and that's the only time offensive linemen are identifiable, there might not be much of a difference between Logan and whoever replaces him to a layperson," Tucker said. "But nobody gets as much push in the running game. Nobody's as powerful. Nobody's as violent, play in and play out, as Logan is."