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Mankins remains a rock for Patriots

03.23.10 at 11:39 pm ET
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The contract troubles that have bubbled up this week between the Patriots and left guard Logan Mankins caused me to go back and take a good look at Mankins’€™ performance since arriving in Foxboro in 2005.

I’€™ve always been unapologetic in my feelings about Mankins ‘€” at the end of the 2009 season, I ranked him as the sixth most-important player on the active roster. But what I found simply reminded me that Mankins remains an underappreciated bedrock along the New England offensive line.

Since he first arrived in 2005, Mankins has been as regular a part of the football landscape in Foxboro as pregame traffic on Route 1. The quiet left guard out of Fresno State has started every game since his rookie season ‘€” a streak of 80 consecutive regular-season starts. That durability is impressive in and of itself, but with the help of Pro Football Focus, a closer look at the numbers reveals the true grit Mankins has displayed, especially this past season.

While he’€™s been able to go wire-to-wire the last five years, 2009 was particularly impressive. Last year, Mankins not only started every game, but according to Pro Football Focus (which ranked him as the best left guard in the AFC East), he was involved in every single offensive snap until the regular-season finale against Houston, when he took nine snaps off. Slacker. He’€™s become so reliable that it’€™s now news when Mankins misses a practice, and his durability has been recognized with two trips to the Pro Bowl.

But it’€™s tough to measure just how good an offensive lineman really is. Outside of sacks allowed ‘€” and even that’€™s a wildly imperfect stat ‘€” there remains no significant way to measure how good an offensive lineman really is. One way to gauge one offensive lineman’€™s ability is to ask another one: Joe Andruzzi ‘€” who preceded Mankins as the left guard along New England’€™s offensive line ‘€” considers Mankins ‘€œone of the top linemen in the league.’€

‘€œHe’€™s a no nonsense player who really gets out there and plays every down to the fullest,’€ Andruzzi said of Mankins. ‘€œI think he’€™s one of the top linemen in the league. He goes out there week-in and week-out and does his job ‘€” he’€™s a real lunch pail kind of guy. Since he showed up here, he’€™s been a fixture on the line, and has really helped this offensive line come together.

‘€œHe’€™s not a big ‘€˜rah-rah’€™ guy,’€ Andruzzi added. ‘€œHe’€™s going to go out there and do his job similar to what I was. You want to be able to be dependable, and Logan has certainly proved that he’€™s dependable.’€

Mankins, who just finished up the final year of a five-year contract he signed in 2005, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this year. However, with the shift to an uncapped year, he was one of the hundreds of players with four and five years of experience who instead became restricted free agents.

As a result, Mankins was tendered at the highest level ($3.26 million), but reportedly has yet to see any movement on a new deal. In an offseason that has seen the Patriots take care of their own ‘€” Vince Wilfork, Leigh Bodden, Stephen Neal and Kevin Faulk ‘€” the fact that Mankins remains without a long-term deal remains puzzling.

‘€œI’€™ve spoken with Logan a couple times and we’€™ll leave those conversations privately,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters who asked about Mankins’€™ situation Tuesday. ‘€œLogan is a good player. He’€™s done a good job for us. I’€™m sure it will all get worked out in the end.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Joe Andruzzi, Logan Mankins,
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