Let’s get right to it, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:
Scarnecchia Should Inspire Players – Sometimes there are just certain guys who inspire those around them and bring out their best.
And that seems to be what was missing in 2015 with the absence of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. His return this offseason comes after the team opted to part ways with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, which followed a frustrating year where the Patriots were never able to get into a rhythm running the football and endured a championship game where they couldn’t protect their quarterback, which ultimately ended their season.
Granted, this team’s issues stemmed from the fact they were decimated by injuries after losing both starting tackles, not to mention they struggled to keep a consistent group together with other guys banged up. What started as an innovative way to keep guys fresh with their offensive line rotations early in the season, something the Patriots got a lot of credit for initially, by midseason they were thin and it seemed like every week they were down another player. For the most part this was a group that looked more like they were trying to stay afloat each week as the injuries mounted, and a lot of the fire and attitude seemed to get snuffed out as things got worse.
With all that adversity, unfortunately DeGuglielmo didn’t fare very well in his first real trial by fire. It was an experience that really showed how important Scarnecchia was because he’s a guy who had a proven history of getting the best out of the guys and guiding them through the rough patches, and there were obviously plenty of them in 2015.
Now the hope is that a lot of that attitude will return with Scarnecchia back coaching, and former Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins admitted that there will likely be a difference next season.
“Oh, it’ll mean a lot. He’s a very good coach,” Mankins told the Providence Journal during Matt Light’s recent fundraiser in Foxboro. “(Scarnecchia will) just (bring) a demanding style, which he coaches with. He’ll always have his guys prepared and if they’re not prepared he’ll find someone that is prepared. That’s the best thing about Dante. Those young guys have a rude awakening coming. They have never had anyone like him. They better be in shape because he’s going to test you.”
New England’s loss in Denver back in January definitely stung, and Tom Brady endured the brunt of that loss. The Broncos’ defense sacked him 4 times but hit him a staggering 20 times, making life completely miserable on the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Patriots offensive line looked completely uninspired and struggled to adjust protections and deal with the onslaught that the Broncos kept throwing at them. On the biggest stages, sometimes it takes a steady presence and someone who can look guys in the eye and make them play better than they ever believed they could.
That’s what Scarnecchia does, and former Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal went from a college wrestler to one of New England’s most consistent performers, and his quote from back in 2012 sums up Scarnecchia best.
“Scar is going down fighting right beside you,”‘ Neal told ESPN back in 2012. “Even if you’re wrong, he’s going to have your back.”
That’s exactly the kind of guy the players in need in the trenches with them, and thankfully he’ll be out there with them this season.
Knighton and Harbor Signings Announced – The Patriots officially announced the signings of nose tackle Terrance Knighton and tight end Clay Harbor on Monday, who both agreed to terms with the team last week.
Knighton solidifies an interior defensive line that needed another big presence following the team making the decision to move on from Vince Wilfork. They played pretty well in 2015, finishing the regular season with the 9th ranked rushing defense while holding opponents to 98.8 yards per game, down from 104.3 in 2014. They also held opponents to under 20 points-per-game (19.7), 10th best in the league. They already got good production from last year’s first round pick, Malcom Brown, but Knighton’s signing because of his size (6-foot-3, 354-pounds) is intriguing to say the least, and will hopefully make them that much better.
As for Harbor, he’s a player who will hopefully give the Patriots depth and he’s certainly got potential to make an impact. He played in 15 games in Jacksonville in 2015, catching 14 passes for 149-yards along with one touchdown.
But one of the key things with Harbor is the fact that he’s just as versatile as the players he’ll be competing against, having experience splitting out wide and providing another player who can give them a similar skillset. Obviously Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett will be the key components in the offense, but adding Harbor to the mix with Michael Williams makes this a pretty talented group.
He’s looking forward to getting started, thanking his former teammates and fans in Jacksonville while expressing his excitement to fans in New England on Twitter earlier on Monday.
“Thanks to my Jags teammates and fans for a great 3 yrs in Jacksonville,” Tweeted Harbor. “Very excited for this next chapter with the Pats! #PatriotsNation”.
Former Patriots TE Mulligan A Beast and Now A Lion – After spending last season in Buffalo, former Patriots tight end Matthew Mulligan won’t be lining up against Belichick’s club this season and is leaving the AFC East, joining former Patriots front office guru Bob Quinn in Detroit.
The Lions GM obviously has familiarity with Mulligan during his one season here and his reputation of being a tremendous blocker likely aided the decision by Quinn to bring the veteran to a Lions team he’s busy revamping.
Mulligan was a hard-working player while he was a Patriot in 2013 and he’s a freak in the weight room. According to the Democrat and Chronicle Mulligan dead lifts 700 pounds and squats around 650 pounds. He also reportedly benches anywhere from 475 to 500 pounds.
Unfortunately lifting that much weight gave him quite the scare last year, with Mulligan suffering an injury in March of 2015 when he dislocated the lunate bone in his right wrist so severely that it was shoved back into his hand. He was reportedly lifting 400 pounds at the time. “I caught it wrong, my elbow smashed on my knee,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “The weight collapsed my wrist.”
It was a long road to recovery and fortunately he made his way back, although the Bills let him go back in December in favor of rookie Nick O’Leary, whom Buffalo promoted from the practice squad.
The good news is, the former University of Maine standout will now get a shot to continue his NFL career in Detroit.
Looking at the Patriots Red Zone Targets – As we continue pondering the Patriots offense heading into 2016, it’s interesting to note some of the red zone numbers from their top targets in 2015, as well as the numbers from other players who surprisingly fared pretty well.
The obvious culprits in Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski lead the way as the leaders from a touchdown standpoint, with Edelman hauling in 5, while Gronkowski led the team with 7. However, a couple of the surprising totals that stood out was the fact that Scott Chandler actually had the third highest touchdown total in the red zone with 4, while catching 6-of-9 passes thrown his way.
We noted it yesterday, but Chandler’s final catch as a Patriot was actually a touchdown, so if his career ultimately comes to an end, he’ll walk away knowing that his final NFL reception ended in the end zone.
Meanwhile, some other notable names that stood out was the fact Brady had success targeting James White, who caught 5-of-6 passes thrown his way, while Brandon LaFell had the lowest completion percentage after Brady connected on just 3-of-7 targets and no touchdowns.
Here’s the full rundown:
Julian Edelman 10-of-16 (62.5%) 5 TDs
Rob Gronkowski 11-of-19 (58%) 7 TDs
Danny Amendola 8-of-11 (73%) 3 TDs
Scott Chandler 6-of-9 (67%) 4 TDs
Dion Lewis 3-of-5 (60%) 2TDs
James White 5-of-6 (83%) 2TDs
Brandon LaFell 3-of-7 (43%) 0TDs
Brandon Bolden 1-of-1 (100%) 1TD
Keshawn Martin 2-of-3 (67%) 2TDs
Aaron Dobson 2-of-4 (50%) 0TDs
LeGarrette Blount 2-of-2 (100%) 1TD
Another stat, of the 11 players targeted, only two failed to catch touchdowns. One of those players is no longer with the team in Brandon LaFell, while the other, Aaron Dobson, should be playing with purpose given the fact he’s got plenty to prove after another injury-shortened season.
Posted Under: Daily Patriots Rundown