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Patriots' offensive line could face a challenge

The SportsXchange

By Len Pasquarelli

The Sports Xchange

Dante Scarnecchia, the venerable New England assistant head coach/offensive line, could have his work cut out for him in 2012.

Left tackle Matt Light has retired after 11 seasons and will be replaced by second-year veteran and former first-rounder Nate Solder. The incumbent right tackle, Sebastian Vollmer, continued to be bothered in the offseason by a bad back that has plagued him much of his career.

The four other tackles on the current roster have combined for only seven games, with zero starts.No one should be surprised if free agent addition Robert Gallery, the eight-year veteran who began his career at tackle as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft in 2004, before moving to guard, gets some snaps at tackle in camp.

The situation isn't a whole lot better at guard. Perennial Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins figures to start the year on the physically unable to perform list, after sustaining an ACL injury in the AFC championship game. Right guard Brian Waters hasn't participated in offseason workouts, and while the Pats are publicly confident he will play in 2012, privately they aren't as certain. If Gallery is forced to play at tackle, it takes some of the depth away from the guard spot, where the team recently added veteran free agent Jamey Richard (11 career starts).

It could be that the loser of the Dan Connolly/Dan Koppen competition at center ends up playing some at guard. Tom Brady absorbed 32 sacks in 2011, the most he has suffered since 2003, so the blocking unit already had some concerns.

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