FanShot

The AFC Favorite?

4

1. Will the offensive line hold up? Solder might have good reason not to focus on things such as his teammates' birthdays, as the 17th pick in last year's draft is about to embark on the most important year of his life. Matt Light, who spent most of the last 11 seasons protecting Brady's blind side, has retired, and the 6-foot-8, 319-pound Solder, who allowed four sacks as a rookie, will replace him at left tackle. Light, though, is not the only large man missing from the practice field, as right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left guard Logan Mankins are both injured, and veteran right guard Brian Waters -- who made his sixth Pro Bowl last season, his first with New England -- did not report to camp, for reasons that remain unexplained (he might very well be retired). A patchwork line could be the only reason this year's offense might not surpass last year's, which trailed only the Saints. ... Stevan Ridley, running back. Ridley had a rollercoaster rookie year. He gained 139 yards on 16 combined carries in Weeks 3 and 4, and just 83 over the Patriots' next eight games. After a strong finish to the regular season -- he averaged exactly 70 yards per game in wins over the Broncos, Dolphins and Bills -- he hardly saw the field in the playoffs, as he had just four carries as Belichick turned to the proven and sure-handed BenJarvus Green-Ellis. ... The Secondary? The Line? The Running Game?

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