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Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Offensive line 02.20.16 at 6:06 am ET
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Injuries to the likes of Sebastian Vollmer (76) affected the Patriots' offensive line all season. (Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports)

Injuries to the likes of Sebastian Vollmer (76) affected the Patriots’ offensive line all season. (Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand and what figures to be the strengths and weaknesses for the team at that position going forward. We started our overview with the quarterbacks, secondary, the running backs, the linebackers and the wide receivers. Now we move on to the offensive line:

Depth chart: LT Nate Solder, LG Josh Kline, C Bryan Stork, RG Tre’ Jackson, RT Sebastian Vollmer, G Shaq Mason, G/C David Andrews, T Marcus Cannon, T Cameron Fleming, T LaAdrian Waddle, G Chris Barker.

Overview: A breakdown is exactly what this group had in the second half of the 2015 season. The unit has already begun an overhaul from what was a tumultuous end to 2015. The line allowed four sacks of Tom Brady in the AFC championship and gave up a stunning 17 quarterback hits to the Denver defense. That combined with the pressure Brady felt throughout the second half of the season cost Dave DeGuglielmo his job and sparked the return from retirement of offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia. In defense of DeGuglielmo, the entire starting group was never on the field at once in 2015, as starting left tackle Nate Solder went down in Week 5 against Dallas with an arm injury. Starting center Bryan Stork didn’t debut in the regular season until Week 9 against the Redskins. Still, the line was one of the bright spots in the first half of the season, as the Patriots were going about their offensive routine without seemingly missing a beat, as first-year players David Andrews (filling in for Stork at center) and guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson did their jobs at a very solid level. Age and health are two major concerns at the tackle spots. Solder has been remarkably resilient in dealing with testicular cancer and now a torn biceps. Vollmer, who turns 32 in July, has dealt with a bad back, concussions and a broken leg. He played in the playoffs with a bad ankle sprain when Joey Iosefa fell on it during the loss to the Jets in Week 16.

An re-dedication to the running game would start with an effort upfront to win one-on-one battles, something they could not do in the second half of the season on a regular basis and certainly failed at in the AFC championship. As we noted in the overview of the running backs, a big key to the Patriots’ running game in 2016 will be the continued development of rookie guards Shaq Mason (drafted out of Georgia Tech for his run-blocking skill) and Tre’ Jackson. If those two, along with third-year center Bryan Stork mature in the middle of the line, the Patriots’ running game could pick up where it left off when Lewis was injured.

The Patriots most certainly figure to address the top-tier depth of the offensive line through free agency (like Jacksonville’s Stefen Wisniewski) and/or in the higher rounds of the draft. The Patriots need to re-establish the toughness they showed after Week 4 in 2014, when they began winning one-on-one battles on a regular basis.

Who will stay? The easy ones are Solder (signed through 2017), Stork, Mason, Jackson, Andrews, Kline (signed through 2017). The question marks are Vollmer (signed through 2016) and Cannon (signed through 2016), Waddle, Barker

Who will go? Fleming.

By the numbers: 12 — The Patriots had twelve different starting offensive line combinations in 18 games this season, thanks to the injuries that began with Bryan Stork’s neck/concussion at the beginning of the season and carried through with Solder’s biceps, Vollmer’s ankle and the knees of Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason.

Read More: 2016 position-by-position breakdown, Cam Fleming, Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo
Nate Solder announces infant son has kidney cancer 11.16.15 at 9:23 pm ET
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There are things that matter more than football and Monday night was a reminder of those things.

Speaking at the Above & Beyond, the Gratitude Gala to benefit the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder announced his infant son Hudson has a Wilms’ tumor in his kidneys. He’s already had a few rounds of chemotherapy at Boston Children’s Hospital after being born this past July.

The Joe Andruzzi Foundation offers support to families who are dealing with cancer.

Solder himself just beat testicular cancer last year and is currently on injured reserve after suffering torn biceps earlier this year.

The news was first reported by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Nate Solder,
Next man up: Patriots offensive line succeeding despite injuries 11.02.15 at 7:11 pm ET
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Sebastian Vollmer has been the leader of the offensive line this season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vollmer has been the leader of the offensive line this season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons to say the least for the Patriots’ offensive line.

Of the five offensive line starters in the Super Bowl, only one player has played all seven games this season — Sebastian Vollmer — and he’s had to shift to left tackle the last two games from his typical right tackle spot.

Vollmer needed to make the switch beginning Week 7 against the Jets after the Patriots lost starter Nate Solder for the season with torn triceps. Center Bryan Stork hasn’t played a game yet this season, as he’s on injured reserve designated for return with a neck injury, but rookie David Andrews has filled his shoes nicely. Right guard Dan Connolly retired and left guard Ryan Wendell hasn’t started a game yet this season, as he’s battled injury and illness.

With Connolly and Wendell out, rookies Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason have done everything and more that’s been asked, while the versatile 25-year-old Josh Kline has filled in wherever he’s been needed and Cameron Fleming came off the practice squad and into a starting role.

Even with all the changes, the offensive line hasn’t missed a beat.

“It’€™s not seamless, that’€™s for sure,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call Monday. “There’€™s a lot of time and effort that’€™s put into whatever it is that we do. We play a good opponent each week that presents a tremendous amount of challenges. This one is no different –€“ the Redskins. [They do] a lot of different things that we haven’€™t seen or played against this year, which will be challenging in many ways. But look, I think your attitude going into every situation is really an important thing. We always have a positive frame of mind, a positive outlook on things. We accept and embrace the responsibility that we have to get ready and play.

“We have no excuses, never, no matter what adversity or what may be staring anybody in the face. Every team deals with injuries. Every team deals with players that may have to switch positions, and we’€™re no different. We just want to work hard and get ready to play each week and try to do the best that we can on Sunday.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bryan Stork, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer
Report: OT Cameron Fleming promoted from practice squad 10.16.15 at 8:45 pm ET
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Cameron Fleming

Cameron Fleming

Nate Solder‘s loss is Cameron Fleming’s gain.

With Solder landing on the injured reserve list this week, the Patriots decided Friday to promote the 23-year-old tackle from the practice squad Friday, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The timing is not surprising since Fleming played 38 of 77 snaps last November in Indianapolis, helping Jonas Gray set a new Patriots record with four touchdowns and 201 yards rushing.

Fleming was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Fleming appeared in nine games last season, including the playoffs.

Fleming was cut by the Patriots at the end of the preseason this year but was signed to the practice squad and subsequently promoted to the active roster Friday.

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Read More: Cameron Fleming, Indianapolis Colts, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
With Nate Solder out for year, Bill Belichick figuring out ‘best options’ at 10:20 am ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has always stressed flexibility along his offensive line.

Now, with the news this week that starting left tackle Nate Solder is out for the season with a torn right biceps, Belichick and the Patriots must figure out what’s next, starting this Sunday night in Indianapolis.

“That’s too bad. That’s a tough break for Nate,” Belichick said in his Friday press conference. “He works really hard in the offseason. He’s one of our offseason award guys. I think his work ethic and training is as good as it can be. It’s just unfortunate. It wasn’t really that big of a hit or anything. It was just one of those things.”

Solder injured his right arm when attempting to block Cowboys tackle Tyrone Crawford with under a minute to go in the first half. As Crawford executed an “up and under” move, Solder’s right arm got pinned back and he shook it as he came off the field.

WEEI.com’s Chris Price broke down the options, including moving Sebastian Vollmer over to left tackle from right tackle and putting Marcus Cannon on the right side.

“He blocked Freeney his rookie year. Sebastian has played left, he’s played left and right well. Marcus has been playing left and right this year, played them both well,” Belichick said. “Again, that’s part of the flexibility we try to build in throughout the course of the year, training camp and OTAs and practice squad and scout team reps and things like that where guys work in different positions because when you only take seven linemen into a game, everyone has to double up somewhere. It’s just all part of it. I think we’re fortunate that we have guys here that can do, that have flexibility and we’ll just try to see what we feel like our best options are for Sunday.”

Belichick noted that what the Patriots throw out there Sunday night could change from game to game, depending on the matchups.

“Sure, it could. his rookie year [2011], [Solder] played tight end and right tackle. It just would depend,” Belichick said. “Some players have more position flexibility than others. If they have it, then there may an opportunity to use it. If they don’t, you try to plug them in that spot and let them go and let them play good. Steve Neal played one spot but he played it well. That wasn’t a guy we were going to move around. Steve was playing right guard and that’s pretty much all he ever played for us but he played it well. We had other players that had more position flexibility and we moved some of them.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
It Is What It Is Cast: Can the Colts hope to stay close, who replaces Nate Solder and is Tom Brady a robot? 10.14.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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FOXBORO — How in the world will the Colts stay competitive Sunday night against the motivated Patriots, looking for revenge on Deflategate? Who do the Patriots turn to now that starting left tackle Nate Solder is out for the season with a torn right biceps? How big of a role will Frank Gore play this weekend? What is really on Tom Brady‘s mind? And why were Chris and Trags talking Van Halen with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar? The dynamic duo went on site at Gillette for this week’s It Is What It Is Cast to find all the answers.

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Read More: Chris Price, Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts, Mike Petraglia
Patriots claim CB Rashaan Melvin off waivers, place OL Nate Solder (biceps) on injured reserve at 5:52 pm ET
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With Nate Solder‘s season-ending torn biceps injury, the Patriots had an opening on their roster and they didn’t take long to fill it.

The team officially played Solder on injured reserve on Wednesday and claimed former Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin off waivers, according to the NFL transaction wire.

Melvin started four games for the Ravens last season, including both playoff games, after being signed off Tampa Bay’s practice squad. This year he was a healthy scratch against the Browns last week and then was placed on waivers, as he had fallen down the team’s depth chart. The Patriots are familiar with him, as he struggled in the second half of last year’s divisional round game.

The Northern Illinois product was signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Melvin provides depth at the cornerback spot following the team releasing Bradley Fletcher last week.

For Solder, being placed on injured reserve officially ends his season following his biceps injury suffered against the Cowboys.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Read More: Nate Solder, Rashaan Melvin,

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