Patriots' top question at guard is how quickly rookies might emerge

Seven-year veteran Ryan Wendell helped stabilize the Patriots' line at right guard in 2014. Damian Strohmeyer AP Images

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).

Sure-fire locks: Ryan Wendell, Tre' Jackson, Shaq Mason, Bryan Stork (center)

On the bubble: Josh Kline, Jordan Devey

Trying to get in the door: Chris Barker, Caylin Hauptmann, David Andrews (center)

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