The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
Name: Sebastian Vollmer
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 76
Size: 6’8, 320 lbs.
2015 review: Vollmer started the 2015 season as the Patriots’ starting right tackle. However, injuries to starting left tackle Nate Solder and top-backup Marcus Cannon forced the veteran to switch sides during New England’s week six matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Vollmer never switched back and protected Tom Brady’s blindside for the rest of the year.
Vollmer appeared in 16 of New England’s 18 games last season. And despite missing two contests because of injury (week 10: concussion, week 17: ankle), he played the fourth most offensive snaps of all Patriots: 955 of 1,253 (76.2%). When on the field, Vollmer was inconsistent as it became evident that he feels much more comfortable playing on the right side of the line.
While he was still the Patriots’ best offensive tackle, Vollmer’s performance did not compare to years past. The numbers show that as well: he gave up 53.5 pressures – 8.5 sacks, 14 hits, 31 hurries – on the year. While he was a very good left tackle in some games, the veteran did struggle in others. This inconsistency was on full display during the Patriots’ playoff run.
2016 preview: With Solder returning from his season-ending biceps injury, Vollmer will switch back to right tackle again. He is projected to return as the starter at the position and hopefully will be able to bounce back after an up-and-down 2015 campaign.
Entering training camp, the major question therefore is probably not what Vollmer’s role will be but rather when he will be able to return to practice and how will he look like back on the field. After all, the 32-year old was placed on the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday. The longer Vollmer is absent from practice, the less chances the top offensive line will have to build chemistry – but the more chances the backup options will get to prove their worth.
Will they be able to surpass Vollmer on the depth chart? If he comes off PUP during training camp, probably not. Not only is he the most experienced but also the most well-rounded offensive tackle on the roster not named Nate Solder. However, if Vollmer starts the season on PUP and consequently misses the first six weeks of the season, it is not a given that he is the starter when he is activated; he will still likely be, though.
All injury-based speculation aside, a healthy Vollmer is still the second best offensive tackle currently on the Patriots roster. As such, he will likely resume his starting role once he returns off the PUP list.
Despite struggling in 2015, Sebastian Vollmer is a starting-caliber offensive tackle. And unless the undisclosed ailments that have forced the team to place him on PUP do not get better, or he gets traded, the 32-year old is once again the favorite to earn the starting right tackle spot.