Tag Archives: Dante Scarnecchia

VIDEO: A Patriots Thank You To Dante Scarnecchia

Robert Alvarez
January 30, 2020 at 10:36 pm ET

As word of Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement got around this week, the New England Patriots produced an appreciation video to the coach as a thank you.

Check out some classic player interviews discussing “Scar’s” importance and legacy in New England along with some mic’d up sideline sights and sounds.

Scarnecchia retires a five-time Super Bowl champion and finishes 34 years of service as a Patriots coach, the most of anyone ever.

Video courtesy, The New England Patriots.

VIDEO: Best of Dante Scarnecchia Mic’d Up on the Sidelines

Robert Alvarez
January 29, 2020 at 9:00 pm ET

A mainstay on the New England Patriots sidelines for over thirty years, check out some of the best mic’d up soundbites from offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia over his Foxboro career,

Scarnecchia, retired from the NFL on Tuesday ending a run as the longest tenured coach in Patriots history.

Video courtesy, The New England Patriots.

Social Media Reacts To The News Of Dante Scarnecchia’s Retirement

Robert Alvarez
at 8:57 pm ET

On Tuesday, news was announced that New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring from the NFL after 36 seasons.

The decision marks the second time Scarnecchia is stepping away from football after his first retirement following the 2013 season.

Scarnecchia returned to the Patriots in 2016, helping the franchise win two more Super Bowls, adding to his career total of five.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and Head Coach Bill Belichick each released a statement praising Scarnecchia’s service to the franchise.

“Dante Scarnecchia has been unbelievable in every way. As a coach, he was extraordinarily talented at teaching his players and bringing the most out of each of them, Dante put everything he had into helping his players achieve their maximum potential — the mark of a great coach. His contributions to our team and to the game of football are unprecedented over the last four decades. Yet even more remarkable is the impact Dante has had on countless players, coaches and staff members who have walked through our doors. He modeled the principles he believed in through his hard work, diligence and integrity. He held himself accountable. He trained alongside his players. He treated everyone with respect. There truly is no way to sum up the incredible career he’s had, the positive impact he’s made on our franchise or how much he will be missed. We are forever grateful for Dante and wish him the absolutely best in his next chapter, along with his lovely wife Susan and his family. The New England Patriots are better because of Dante Scarnecchia, and he will always have a home with us.”

“It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout a second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever.”

Scarnecchia spent 34 of his 36 professional seasons with the Patriots, becoming the longest-tenured NFL coach in 2019 and owning the most coaching seasons in New England Patriots history.

Current and former players coached under Scarnecchia shared reaction over social media with heartfelt congratulatory messages, memories, and thank you’s.

Check out all the best below.

View this post on Instagram

Just saw the report that #Patriots OL coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring. First let me say that it was a privilege to play and be coached by this man. From my predraft visit, where we sat through and watched the worst game of my college career (Syracuse), to my last game in a Pats uniform, this man taught me more about the game than I could ever imagine. Never relenting on the details, I always used to wonder why he was so damn hard on me my first couple yrs in the league and looking back on it…he did me a HUGE favor! That foundation is what carried me for 12 yrs in the #NFL and beyond. I want to thank coach from the bottom of my heart for helping turn a young pup from BC into a pro on and off the field…LUV!#patriotsnation

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Patriots OL Coach Dante Scarnecchia Retires, Next Stop Canton

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:06 am ET

The Patriots coaching staff is losing a legend as longtime assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring after 36 seasons in the NFL, 34 of them with the Patriots. That’s longer than most of the players and many of the fans of the team have even been alive. 

Scarnecchia has always been regarded as one of the finest assistant coaches in the league and one who has been integral to the Patriots’ success, especially during the Belichick/Brady era of success. 

Scarnecchia was first hired by the Patriots in 1982 and was on Ron Meyer’s staff. He joined Meyer in Indianapolis for two years in 1989-90 before returning to the Patriots in 1991. He retired for two years in 2014 -15 before returning in 2016. He’ll turn 72 years old in February. During his time in New England, he’s worked for head coaches Meyer, Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and Belichick. In 49 of the Patriots 58 playoff games, he’s been on the sideline. He owns five Super Bowl rings. 

“Dante Scarnecchia has been unbelievable in every way. As a coach, he was extraordinarily talented at teaching his players and bringing the most out of each of them,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. 

“Dante put everything he had into helping his players achieve their maximum potential — the mark of a great coach. His contributions to our team and to the game of football are unprecedented over the last four decades. Yet even more remarkable is the impact Dante has had on countless players, coaches and staff members who have walked through our doors. He modeled the principles he believed in through his hard work, diligence, and integrity. He held himself accountable. He trained alongside his players. He treated everyone with respect. There truly is no way to sum up the incredible career he’s had, the positive impact he’s made on our franchise or how much he will be missed. We are forever grateful for Dante and wish him the absolutely best in his next chapter, along with his lovely wife Susan and his family. The New England Patriots are better because of Dante Scarnecchia, and he will always have a home with us.”

“It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout the second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady took to Instagram and had this to say about the retirement of Coach Scar: “Couldn’t have been a greater man or coach! What a privilege to play and work with Dante for two decades. The definition of the Patriot Way — consistent and dependable EVERY DAY!!”

Scarnecchia’s retirement adds another piece, a very big piece at that, to a Patriots coaching staff that has already lost. STs coordinator and WR coach Joe Judge, and DL coach Bret Bielema had both left for the Giants, Judge taking over as head coach and Bielema joining his staff with him. 

Scarnecchia was always known as a coach who would get the absolute best out of his players. He was tough, very demanding and a no-nonsense guy, but a coach that would also always be accountable and have their backs. That’s why almost every player to a man that he coached will say that while he was tough to play for, he was loved by his players.

Tackles Nate Solder and Trent Brown earned huge contracts after playing under the tutelage of Coach Scar and a look at the current group of offensive linemen shows that despite not being drafted in Rounds 1-2, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon have all thrived working for him. Center David Andrews wasn’t drafted at all. 

Scarnecchia would be very much involved with the scouts when working out offensive lineman prospects, and he could always spot the players with the talent that they could mold into Patriots offensive linemen. That aspect of their drafting process, along with his incredible eye for detail on the field will definitely be missed. 

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was taking an All-American wrestler Stephen Neal, who had never played a snap of college football and molding him into a very solid offensive lineman. 

With young offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, and Hjalte Froholdt in the mix, it will be interesting to see how their development takes shape without Scarnecchia on the sideline in 2020. Wynn was just finding his feet in 2019 after injuries derailed him of his first season and a half while Froholdt was injured early in his rookie season. Cajuste never took the field after he had offseason quad surgery. 

So, who will replace Coach Scar on the staff in 2020? Most seem to think that the job will fall to OL assistant Carmen Bricillo or RB assistant coach Cole Popovich. Bricillo was brought on to the staff last season after nine years of coaching OL at Youngstown State, while Popovich assisted Scarnecchia for several years prior to that.  

“You never know what to expect in this crazy business and it’s been an unbelievable four years,” Scarnecchia said to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Tuesday. “To coach 48 seasons of football, it’s been unbelievable and I never would’ve expected anything remotely close to this. I’ve been extremely blessed for 1000 different reasons. I’ll give you three: Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. To have those stars all in alignment, it’s been unbelievable. To just be able to share in it has been great.”

Watching Scarnecchia work with the OL during minicamps and training camps was always a treat. And how many 71-year olds run sprints on the hill with their offensive linemen after practice? He’ll be truly missed, on and off the field. 

As far as assistant positional coaches go, there was arguably none better. Canton should have a bust for him when his name becomes eligible. Of that, he is most deserving. Did we say yet that he’ll be missed? Happy trails coach. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Despite Patriots Loss, End of Dynasty Talk Can Wait For Some Other Day

Bob George
January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am ET

End of an era?  Save that for March when some famous quarterback’s contract expires.

It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s over.  No more football in New England until this summer.  The 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, as former Patriot Mike Vrabel led his Tennessee Titans to a hard fought 20-13 win over the former Super Bowl Champion Patriots, sending his charges to Baltimore to take on the top-seeded Ravens next weekend.  Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards last night, but the Titans’ defense may give up 282 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson next week.  That’s Tennessee’s problem, not New England’s.

What is their problem is what to do moving forward.  This team turned out to be one of the worst 12-4 teams in recent NFL history.  This season was clearly mischaracterized by the ridiculously easy early first half of the season, where the Patriots went 8-0 and beat teams that woebegone UMass might have given a good game.  Once the good teams started lining up on the opposite side of the ball, things began to change.  The last two games, home losses to Miami and Tennessee, revealed to the pro football world what the 2019 Patriots really were.  Key injuries, key retirements, and a general misjudging of the talent on this team all combined to lead to their early playoff exit, something not seen around these parts in exactly a decade when Baltimore came into Gillette Stadium and blew out the Patriots, 33-14 in the last Wild Card round game this team has played until last night.

That said, here are the five main reasons why the team crashed and burned and saw their Super Bowl championship come to an end last night.

#5 – Offensive line needed more than just Coach Scar

 This was a bad year for the offensive line, period.  David Andrews was lost in training camp for the season due to blood clots in his lungs (more on him later), which got things off to a bad start.  But basically, this unit never jelled at all.  For much of the season, the line started guys like Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse and Jermaine Eluemunor.  Starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon missed significant playing time.  Wynn came back for the Dallas game, but the team went only 3-4 after he came back.   Cannon had a substandard season at right tackle when he did play.  Karras is simply no Andrews, and Newhouse and Eluemunor were stopgap fill-ins, nothing more.  Except for a few nice runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead here and there, this line had a bad year.  Tom Brady’s pass blocking protection this year was mostly non-existent (his season passer rating of 88 was his lowest since 2013).  If Brady either retires or winds up leaving the Patriots, one has to wonder if the bad performance of the offensive line will be a major factor.

#4 – A vastly overrated defense, totally exposed in the end

 They were being held up there with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers as one of the best one-season defenses in NFL history.  They were 8-0, and fantasy owners who had the Patriot defense (Yours Truly included) enjoyed astonishingly high numbers.  Then along came Lamar Jackson and everything changed.

Granted, Jackson has made a lot of defenses look like a combination of matadors, young guys suddenly looking old as dirt, and befuddled dopes who would have problems stopping a high school option offense.  But the Patriots always seemed to have an answer for everything.  They were powerless to stop Jackson, but that soon begat getting shredded at home by Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and bludgeoned by Mark Ingram, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry.  They could not stop a final scoring drive at home from Miami with a first-round bye on the line.  All-Pro Stephon Gilmore suddenly looked like 1997 top draft pick Chris Canty when trying to cover Devante Parker in that hideous regular season finale.

Explaining the offensive line was easy.  Explaining the collapse of the defense isn’t.  Granted, the unit played okay Saturday night and allowed only 13 points, but stopping Ryan Tannehill (previously 0-6 lifetime against the Patriots) is like Dietrich Wise or Adam Butler trying to stop a six-year old kid from entering a candy store.  Henry won the game for Tennessee Saturday night, not Tannehill, and they even allowed some Harvard grad named Anthony Firkser to catch a touchdown and make a key third down catch late in the game.  There was no clutch in this group down the stretch, and all the big plays that are usually made were not made this year.

Wow.  First Fitzpatrick, and now Firkser.  Let’s send some more Patriot scouts to Cambridge from now on.

#3 – Brady cannot totally blame his receivers for lack of chemistry

 Late in his career, the Celtics allowed the late, great John Havlicek to report to training camp late.  He simply needed more rest at his advancing age.  Problem is, the last two Celtics teams he played on were knocked out of the playoffs by Philadelphia, and failed to make the playoffs in his final season.  Was Havlicek reporting late the reason why?  Certainly not, as the front office made one bad trade after another and by 1978, the team was so bad that perhaps Red Auerbach could be forgiven if he yelled “Russell is not coming through that door!  Neither is Heinsohn, Cousy, or anyone named Jones!”

For the last two offseasons, Brady has missed all of the voluntary OTAs.  He is spending more time with his wife Gisselle and his children, consorting with his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, and working with his personal quarterback coach, former Red Sox lefty reliever Tom House (whose only other claim to fame is catching Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves bullpen).  At Brady’s age, you have to figure that he’s earned it.  He’s the GOAT, and he doesn’t need all this voluntary offseason stuff that the younger, more mortal players need.

But as the Ghost of Christmas Past told Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (this is the version that stars George C. Scott as the Humbug Homey), “You have shown me what you have gained!  Now I will show you what you have lost!”

Brady gains valuable family time, and is totally comfortable with Guerrero and House, as most of us all know (especially if you watched that Facebook feature Tom Vs Time two years ago).  But his not attending the OTAs meant that he didn’t get a chance to build a rapport with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski and Matt La Cosse.  In past years, this was why a Wes Welker could be cast aside and a Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman could be groomed to take his place.  By not attending the OTAs, Brady never got that time in.

As a result, in most of the games played, all defenses had to do was account for Edelman and James White, and that was that.  Brady was never on the same page with anyone other than those two veterans.  You can’t count Antonio Brown in this discussion, as he was only here for one week.  But his choosing to spend time away from Foxborough in the offseason did have some repercussions.

#2 – Injuries to Andrews and Develin were not overcome

 Andrews, as previously stated, had blood clots in his lungs and was declared out for the season in training camp.  That left all his responsibilities to Karras, and the dropoff was noticeable.  The center does a lot more than snap the ball.  He calls out blocking assignments and sets the line for the next play.  Of course, he also has to be a good blocker.  In both areas, Karras simply did not account for the loss of Andrews.  Dante Scarnecchia had plenty of time to develop either Karras or some other player to at least hold down the fort in Andrews’ absence.

Develin’s injury may have been even more damaging.  His lead blocking for Michel and Burkhead might be seen by some as overlooked, but not by those who really know the game.  Linebacker Elandon Roberts turned out to be the replacement for Develin as Jakob Johnson also went down with an injury.  Roberts was much like Karras in that he did okay but was clearly no Develin.  Roberts was called upon to try and convert a third and one on Saturday night but was stuffed for no gain.  He did crack off some nice lead blocks, but the failed first and goal at the one exposed the absence of Develin at a time where a touchdown was badly needed but a field goal was all they got.

#1 – Gronkowski was never replaced, even slightly

 Rob Gronkowski retired last March, and kept true to his word.  Several experts predicted he would come back around November, but he never did.  He is still trying to become a comedian on the Fox pregame show rather than trying to surprise Patriot Nation with a late return to the Patriot lineup.  He is done with football.  Period.

The Patriots did not draft a tight end.  All the Patriots did was to bring in La Cosse and ancient former Patriot Ben Watson, who had to be talked into coming out of retirement.  Even Jacob Hollister was cast adrift, now catching tosses from Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks.

Brady missed Gronk big time.  Yes, the Patriots did win Super Bowl LI with that biblical comeback without Gronk in the lineup.  But over an entire season, the Patriots had no Martellus Bennett this year.  Without Gronkowski or Bennett to worry about, defenses double teamed Edelman with no qualms or trepidations.  They didn’t worry about Dorsett, Harry or Meyers.  This all combined to throw Brady off kilter and reduce the Patriot passing attack to something merely mortal.

Patriot Nation certainly knew what it had with Gronkowski.  Sometimes Bill Belichick can get away with personnel magic, but he couldn’t this time.  Both Brady and Gronkowski made it to the NFL Network’s Top 100 list at their respective positions (as did Belichick).  It could be that Belichick didn’t restock on tight end because perhaps he thought Gronk would come back in November.  Didn’t happen.

Add it all up, and it’s someone else’s turn this year.  Any talk about the end of the dynasty can wait for some other day.

ICYMI: Isaiah Wynn Shares Uplifting Tweet Following Injury News

Robert Alvarez
September 20, 2019 at 8:30 pm ET

The hits to the New England Patriots offensive line keep coming.

On Tuesday Left Tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve with a turf toe injury.

According to reports, Wynn will miss a minimum of eight weeks.

Wynn joins Marcus Cannon (shoulder) and David Andrews (blood clots) as linemen unavailable for the Patriots.

Both Wynn and Cannon are eligible to return this season while Andrews is out for the year.

On Wednesday, Wynn tweeted an uplifting message for fans.

On Thursday, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told reporters Marshall Newhouse will start at left tackle in place of Wynn.

Should Cannon remain unavailable Sunday, the Patriots will start three backups in in Newhouse, Korey Cunnigham, and center Ted Karras.

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 18, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots return four of their five starters from an offensive line that was just outstanding in 2018 enroute to the team’s sixth Super Bowl title. The one very big piece both figuratively and literally is left tackle Trent Brown. Brown came to the Patriots last year with questions if he could be a viable left tackle in the NFL. He not only answered those but parlayed them into a massive 4-year contract worth $66 million dollars with the Raiders this spring.

The Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the draft last year with the expectation that he would be the left tackle of the future. However, Wynn tore his Achilles in the preseason last summer and spent the entire year on IR. 

The strength of the offensive line is with their guard tandem of Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason which is one of the best in the NFL. Scrappy, tough and steady David Andrews is the center and Marcus Cannon is the right tackle. 

The Patriots are hoping that Wynn is ready for a full load this season and is ready to be a left tackle in the NFL. Backing him up is the underrated rookie T Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia. Cajuste is coming off quad surgery this offseason and missed all of the spring. But he is the swing tackle of the immediate future. 

The team signed veteran Jared Veldheer this spring but he decided to retire when he said his body wasn’t going to withstand the rigors of another season. 

With a 4th round draft pick, the Patriots selected Hjalte Froholdt, he should immediately challenge Ted Karras for the top interior backup role. The biggest question after Wynn’s status will be who will be the 4th tackle on the depth chart? Cole Croston, Cedrick Lang, Dan Skipper, Tyree St. Louis, and Calvin Anderson will be all vying for that position.

As long as Dante Scarnecchia is patrolling the Patriots sideline as the team’s offensive line coach, the Patriots can pretty much weather any storm that creeps up with the offensive line. So, with training camp just around the corner, let’s take a look at the position. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.

Current roster – Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Brian Schwenke, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cedrick Lang, Ryker Matthews, Dan Skipper, Calvin Anderson, Tyree St. Louis, Tyler Gauthier

Locks – Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, Cajuste

Near Locks –  Froholdt, Karras

Bubble – Croston, Ferentz, Schwenke

Long Shot – Eldrencamp, Lang, Matthews, Skipper, Anderson, St. Louis, Gauthier 

Discussion – We expect that Wynn will be ready to go for training camp. I watched him take part in individual drills during minicamp, he was held out of team drills, I believe as a precaution. He looked to me that he was moving without any issues and looked ready to go. Regardless, Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, and Cajuste are all locks for the roster. 

Froholdt and Karras are both near locks. I personally believe that the team is looking at Froholdt as starter material for next season. Joe Thuney is in a contract year and could be in the market for a big payday. He played nearly all of the starter snaps during minicamp with Wynn and Cajuste absent. If he does leave, Froholdt may be getting groomed for the next guard under Scarnecchia. 

Karras has been a very good depth player and has the ability to fill in at guard and center. He’s tough, physical and versatile. Only an awful summer should stop him from earning a roster spot in 2019. 

Cole Croston would be the next in line for the 4th tackle position. He’s been kept around the past few years but is in no way considered a lock for the roster. He’s a very good practice squad candidate. The Patriots could still be in the market for another tackle.

Overall, the offensive line is in very good shape overall. Even though Wynn hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, the Patriots spent the 23rd overall pick on him for a reason. And although I may be overplaying things a bit, as long as Scarnecchia is coaching up the O-line, I have no doubt that they’ll figure things out. 

With training camp starting next week, the competition among the linemen should be extremely fun to watch. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

VIDEO: Watch The Patriots Discuss What The Super Bowl LIII Ring Means To Them

Robert Alvarez
June 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm ET

The Patriots shared new footage from the Super Bowl LIII ring party on Friday over social media.

Check out the video below containing a few players and coaches discussing the importance of their Super Bowl LIII championship ring.

Video courtesy: Patriots.com

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

Continuity and Preparing for 2018 are Keys

The Patriots head into training camp in less than two weeks and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up is the Offensive Line position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So we’re going to take a look at the Patriots Offensive Line. One of the keys to the 2016 success and part of the struggle down the stretch in 2015 had to do with continuity. The Patriots five starters played together nearly wire-to-wire last year and their performance showed. In 2015 injuries decimated the unit and the team couldn’t get any kind of cohesiveness going.

The good news is that five starters return as well as some of their top backups. But the team didn’t neglect their offensive line this offseason. With an eye to the future, they drafted two tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft, Tony Garcia, and Connor McDermott. Garcia in particular looks to have been drafted with 2018 and beyond in mind.

Although the team lost RT Sebastian Vollmer to retirement this spring, he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury and with the ascendance of Marcus Cannon, the team looks to be in good shape there.
So, with that in mind who is locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Tony Garcia
The starting five returns, seem to be healthy and are locked on the roster this summer. Solder returned from IR in 2015 to play very solidly last year. He’s in the last year of his contract and with that in mind, the team has drafted two possible replacements.

Moving up and using multiple picks to draft Garcia, he’s obviously someone who Dante Scarnecchia feels can be a left tackle of the future. With Solder in place for at least 2017, there is no pressure on Garcia to produce early. This will be a red-shirt type of year for him to learn the system and develop under the tutelage of Coach Scar.

Cannon came out of the doghouse to play very well in 2016. Guards Mason and Thuney are young and physical and should only improve. Andrews is an undersized but smart center and he’s not going anywhere.

Unless there is an injury somewhere, I see no changes happening along the starting lineup for the Patriots offensive line in 2017.

Near Roster Locks: Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras
Last season both Fleming and Karras were the top backups for the tackles and the interior line last year. They both have the inside track for the top backup positions again as well. Karras has the versatility to play either guard or back-up the center David Andrews. He’s not the most athletic guy but he’s physical and tough.

Fleming was the swing tackle last year and will be trying to hold off the rookies Garcia and McDermott from taking that job away from him. He’s versatile and can fill in at either left or right tackle, something that is easier said than done.

On the Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Andrew Jelks, Max Rich, Jamil Douglas, Chase Farris, Jason King, James Ferentz
The Patriots have plenty of depth at the backup positions and these players are likely to be fighting for reps in training camp and a most likely only one or two slots.

Waddle has been a backup tackle and a blocking tight end but with the depth, at that position, he’ll be pushed hard for a roster spot. McDermott is another intriguing prospect. He’s a guy that the Patriots used a pair of picks to get, albeit in the sixth round of the draft. Would he pass thru waivers if the team tries to stash him on the practice squad? That would seem to be his best bet to make the roster, at least this summer, unless the inevitable injuries occur.

With a lot of bodies in camp, this will be an intriguing group to watch. They’ll have the entire preseason to make a case for sticking, so staying healthy and on the field, will be of primary importance.

Our next primer will have the Patriots defensive line… stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Offensive Line Has Been Excellent Thus Far in 2016

Steve Balestrieri
September 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm ET

Solid Play, Return of Scarnecchia, Keys to Fast Start

The Patriots early season success can be attributed to a number of different factors. Not the least of which is the coaching of Bill Belichick, but the play of the offense line has to be considered one of the pleasant surprises thus far in 2016.

With the suspension of Tom Brady, the biggest question this summer was, “How will the Patriots fare in the first quarter of the season?” The answer thus far has been, just fine. The team is off to a 3-0 start and like many had envisioned prior to the start of the year, in no large part to the offense leaning on the running game.

An even bigger question to me than how would the backup quarterbacks play this season, was how would the offensive line handle being tasked with handling the running game. Especially when the opponent knew the Patriots were going to run. The offensive line a year ago was injury ravaged, of that there is no doubt about that. But their level of play overall was poor and Brady was nearly decapitated at times out there a year ago.

But the return of Dante Scarnecchia, the return to health of Nate Solder and the addition of Joe Thuney has been a panacea for the Patriots offensive line. Thru three games the Patriots lead the NFL in rushing and the play of the offensive has been markedly improved. The interior three of center David Andrews, and guards Shaq Mason and Thuney are perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise as they’re playing very strong and get better as the game goes along.

Joe Thuney wants to know “What are Pink Stripes?” Thuney (62) and David Andrews (60) have been solid this year.

LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL in rushing attempts (75), rushing yards (298), rushing yards per game (99.3) & is tied for the lead in rush touchdowns (4).

“There were a lot of plays — too many plays — last year where it didn’t matter who the back was, we just couldn’t get him started, couldn’t get him into any kind of space, couldn’t let the back build up any kind of momentum,” Bill Belichick said in a conference call with the media after the Miami game.

“I think all our backs have the ability to make yards. They’ve all been productive. We’ve seen it in the preseason, we’ve seen it through the years with some of these guys, depending on which guy you want to talk about, but we had to give him a chance,” he added. “You’ve got to give them a chance to have some type of opportunity to operate with some space or momentum, just something. No back can gain yardage when there’s just no place to run. I don’t care how good the guy is.”

Belichick’s comments are telling because they go against the popular notion that Blount dances too much when he gets the ball. What is he, or any other back supposed to do when there is nowhere to run. We’ve all seen, too often that the Patriots’ backs getting hit as soon as they receive the handoff, often deep in the backfield. That isn’t the running backs’ fault.

Blount is on pace for nearly 1600 yards rushing in 2016. While the offense will change once Brady returns from his league imposed vacation, one can’t say enough about the performance and workload that was placed on his shoulders. And he’s come through in the clutch for the team, especially in the fourth quarter as he’s been a closer for the team.

“We’ve always had a lot of confidence in LeGarrette,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He has had a lot of big games here for us and helped us win a lot of games, and he doesn’t just carry the ball, he did some things in terms of protection. He helped us on the edge with some of their good pass rushers. LG is always ready to go, practices hard… prepares hard for each week, and whatever we ask of him he embraces his role on our team.”

Two other additions that can’t be overlooked this season has been the play in the running game of Martellus Bennett and James Develin. Bennett has always been known as an excellent run blocking tight end, and it is an area that he has always prided himself in. He and Rob Gronkowski give the Patriots the option of nearly having two extra tackles in the running game. They can also go out on pass routes and threaten the seams. Once Gronkowski’s hamstring is healthy, he and Bennett will be a tough duo to stop.

Develin’s value to the running game can’t be overstated. He was really missed a year ago and he is a devastating blocker as a fullback as he leads the way for the backs to follow in the running game. A look at some of Blount’s big runs this season usually entail him following Develin thru the hole and into the second level of the defense.

The pass blocking of the offensive line has been better, not great but better this year. Granted they aren’t passing on every down, which actually hurt their level of play when teams could just pin their ears back and come after Brady.

They’ll face another tough test in the Buffalo Bills defense this week. The Bills sacked Carson Palmer five times and picked him off four more on Sunday. But dedicating themselves to being able to run the ball and sticking with it has been a feather in the cap of Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels thus far this season. McDaniels creative play-calling and game planning has kept opposing defenses on their toes. And he’s able to do that due to their ability to run the ball effectively in 2016.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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