It's the first week of August, but questions about the Patriots' offensive line have been swirling since the beginning of training camp.
The look and feel of this position group may seem like pieces to a puzzle, but it's not that complicated. Even with Robert Gallery's retirement Saturday, the Patriots are stocked with players to take his place, and players who can step in upon their return.
With the way things stand, there are now 16 players on the roster for the o-line, not including Brian Waters who has been absent from camp. If the Patriots hold true to last season's 53-man roster, they'll carry nine or 10 players on the team.
Here are the all players they have now, listed by their primary position:
Other (can fit anywhere)
(* = Players who are physically unable to perform right now, or otherwise not practicing.)
Last season, Connolly, McDonald and Wendell all spent time in the starting lineup. Through training camp, Thomas and Connolly had competed for time at guard with Gallery while Mankins has been out with an injury and Waters has been absent.
If Mankins holds true to lore, he'll play despite any injury. And he'll play well. That's your left guard.
The left tackle is set with Nate Solder. No one is taking his job away from him.
At center, Koppen is facing competition from Connolly and Wendell. But the Patriots would do well with any of those three. Connolly started 11 games at center last season.
At right guard, if Waters doesn't return, the team will turn to Connolly, Wendell or Thomas.
And when Sebastian Vollmer is healthy, he'll play right tackle. But if he's not ready to go when the season starts, Cannon will fill in ably.
This line, while seemingly unsettled, has parts to tinker with. But that doesn't mean the team doesn't have the pieces in place. The preseason will give the Patriots the appropriate opportunity to move around each player and evaluate who works best at center, right guard, and until Mankins returns, left guard.
Sure, Sept. 9. can't come fast enough. But there's no worry here.