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Dante Scarnecchia: ‘I have to do a better job’ helping offensive line cut down on sacks

11.06.13 at 9:19 pm ET
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Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has his sights set on improving the offensive line. (AP)

Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has his sights set on improving the offensive line. (AP)

FOXBORO — Anyone watching the Patriots this season has noticed a sharp uptick in the amount of pressure and the number of hits Tom Brady has taken in the pocket.

In nine games, Brady has been sacked 26 times. He was sacked 27 times in all of 2012 and 32 times in 2011. As a matter of fact, Brady is on pace to be sacked 46 times. The most times Brady has been sacked in one season is 41 in 2001. There isn’t anyone on the Patriots taking all of this harder than longtime offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia.

“I think that, yes we have given up more sacks at this point than we did all last season,” Scarnecchia said this week as the team heads into the bye. “Believe me, I understand that. So, what is it? I think that I probably have to do a better job coaching and getting them to do things better. I think our players are working at it very hard and you know sacks are a byproduct of a lot of different things. So, I’ll pretty much just leave it at that and hopefully, as we’ve said, we’re going to try and [be] better doing the things that we’re doing going forward.”

The sacks don’t include the 46 hits he’s taken and the increased pressure in the pocket. Brady has always been good with pocket presence, stepping up to avoid pressure or just moving side-to-side. But this year, he clearly doesn’t have the same confidence or feel.

When defenses attack, where is the pressure coming from? Well, according to the intense research from Pro Football Focus, mostly up the middle. Center Ryan Wendell is having a particularly rough year in pass protecting, rating out at a minus-8.3. Wendell has played all 681 snaps with Brady. The others in the red are the guards Dan Connolly (-6.3) and Logan Mankins (-2.3).

This week, when Mankins was asked about the season he’s having, Mankins allowed for the fact that his game against Miami wasn’t up to par but the rest of the season has been good.

“Mentally I’m better,” Mankins said. “Sometimes physically I’m not as fast as I once was, I don’t think. Just for example this year, I thought I’ve had a good year except for Miami. I played pretty bad that game, got beat a couple times, but every once in a while someone’s got you r number and they had mine that day. So it’s one of those deals.”

“I don’t know. I think that it’s just like anything where we’re at a point right now where the key thing for all of us is that we avoid using the word satisfied,” Scarnecchia said. “None of us should be satisfied with anything. The idea is to improve every day and try to get better every day and be a better football team tomorrow than we are today, so pretty much that’s it. We know where we are, we know what we do, we know how we do it and we’re just going to try and get better as we go forward.”

The Patriots will miss right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who came in at a plus-10.5 rating according to PFF, surpassed only by the 11.5 pass-blocking rating of Nate Solder. Vollmer has been replaced by Marcus Cannon, who has been having a successful season, albeit in 275 snaps.

“It’s the same as it was before we put him in that role. Marcus is our backup tackle and now he is our starting right tackle,” Scarnecchia said. “We feel like he is very capable of doing this job for any team. Right now he is doing it for us and he is doing a great job of it and we’re very pleased with the way he is playing right now.”

Does the 55 points indicate better times ahead for the offense and the line?

“I don’t know,” Scarnecchia conceded. “If you went on the last game you could say, ‘Yeah,’ that would probably be a pretty good thing. We just feel like our goal around here has always been from day one to be better today than we were at the beginning. That’s pretty much it. Whatever it was last week, hopefully it will be the same next week and then if it is next week, then maybe we say, ‘Oh, OK, maybe we do have some rhythm going.’”

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