The Patriots’ first public training camp practice is Thursday, July 29, and with 82 players on the roster, there is plenty to analyze. ESPNBoston.com has picked what it feels are the top eight aspects to monitor. As part of the “Countdown to Camp”, they will be counted down with one each day leading up to the first practice.
No. 2: Logan Mankins' contract standoff and its impact on the offensive line
Why it’s a top issue: Mankins is arguably the Patriots' best offensive lineman. His absence figures to have a significant impact on both the short-term and long-term forecast for the line.
Where things stand: As of last week, the sides had not spoken about a contract since Mankins' public remarks requesting a trade in June. Because of that, it's unlikely Mankins will be reporting for camp.
How the Patriots respond: The team primarily worked offensive tackle Nick Kaczur at left guard in June's mandatory minicamp. If that switch does not pan out, five-year veteran Dan Connolly projects as the next option.
Xs and Os thought: Mankins has played 98.5 percent of the Patriots' snaps since he was drafted in the first round, according to figures from the NFL Players Association. Replacing that consistency and durability will be a challenge, although the Patriots have a group of young players that has been developed over the last 2-3 years. The quality of that group will be tested.
Roster thought: Mankins' status ties into the question of how many linemen the Patriots might keep on the roster. Last year, they kept 10 linemen coming out of training camp. Mankins wouldn't count against that limit if he does not show up, so it could open a door for a younger player who might have otherwise been cut to grab a spot on the roster. Players like 2009 fourth-round draft choice Rich Ohrnberger, 2009 fifth-round draft choice George Bussey and former practice squad player Ryan Wendell are a few of the linemen who might fall into that category.
Fun fact: Kaczur, the projected replacement for Mankins, was a 2005 first-round draft choice of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. The Brantford, Ontario native was the Patriots' third-round draft choice that same year.
No. 8 -- Tight ends & the red zone
No. 7 -- Linebackers & development
No. 6 -- Third option at WR
No. 5 -- Young defensive backs
No. 4 -- Tom Brady at the helm
No. 3 -- Defensive changes