As part of a preview for New England Patriots training camp (first practice July 30) and to re-familiarize ourselves with the roster, it's time to bring back the "checking the locks" series. Today, we continue with interior offensive linemen (to be followed by offensive tackles).
Analysis: This will be one of the top competitions in training camp. The Patriots invested fourth-round draft choices in Jackson (No. 111) and Mason (No. 131), so it seems fair to assume they will at least have the luxury of a year to develop, which is why they find themselves in the "sure-fire locks" category. More pressing is how quickly, if at all, they might be able to contribute in a significant role as this group takes shape following the retirement of starting left guard Dan Connolly. Relying on rookies always comes with some risk, which is why Wendell, the scrappy seven-year veteran, is viewed as a "sure-fire lock" after helping stabilize the line at right guard in 2014. Kline (third year) is my projected starter at left guard at this time, but I stopped short of locking him on the roster until seeing the rookies competing in full pads. Devey plays guard and tackle and spent all last season on the roster; if he sticks around again it will be contingent on the level of improvement he makes from 2014 to 2015. Barker, Hauptmann and Andrews all have shown developmental upside.
Checking the locks 2015
Cornerbacks in transition
Running backs closely bunched in competition
Safeties add infusion of youth
Wide receivers don’t have much intrigue with top six returning
Tight ends measure up with a large catch radius
Defensive ends were already strong, but Patriots aggressively added to the mix