Sebastian Vollmer's health could be vital to the strength of the O-Line.
I wrote a detailed analysis of the team’s no-huddle offense around mid-season last year and, in it, discovered that the team scored two-thirds of the time when they went no-huddle (which was about a third of the time). They huddled two-thirds of the time, but scored just once every three drives from the slowed-down tempo. So, I asked Bill Belichick and Tom Brady why they didn’t use it more often when it appeared to be so successful.
Their responses were revealing. Essentially, they said operating without a huddle is advantageous only when going up against defensive personnel who aren’t equipped to match up with the players the Patriots have on the field. The disadvantage, from New England’s standpoint, is that they can’t substitute when they’re not huddling. This limits the number of plays they can run with the personnel they have out there.
For instance, if the Patriots have their third-down back on the field with three receivers and one tight end, that personnel package isn’t always the desired one for goal-line situations, when a "heavy" package is more likely to succeed. So, no matter what improvements the Patriots make to their 2011 league-worst defense this year, they will have no effect on the offensive play calling.
Now, the lack of Light’s steady presence is surely a loss for New England’s o-line, but I have little doubt about Solder’s ability to step in and perform. For one, he’s far more prepared for the role than Light was when he was handed the job as a rookie in 2001. Secondly, Solder is a more talented player and could potentially be better than Light ever was.
However, I share your concerns about Vollmer’s health, which puts the right tackle position up for grabs. Cannon, it would seem, would be the frontrunner to replace Vollmer, if he can’t go, but you could see competition for that role from any number of young players on the roster, such as Matt Kopa (a 2011 practice squadder), or perhaps veteran Robert Gallery, if he’s not thrust into the right guard role.
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