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Patriots offensive line continues to make changes, struggling to find right combination 09.30.14 at 12:29 am ET
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Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday's 41-17 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Tamba Hali was able to get to Tom Brady for a strip sack in the second half of Monday’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Patriots made a few changes to the struggling offensive line prior to Monday’s game against the Chiefs by starting two rookies — Bryan Stork at center and Cameron Fleming at right guard (his first time ever playing the position), as well as moving Dan Connolly to left guard.

In addition, the team deactivated Jordan Devey, who had started the first three games of the season. Even with the changes, it did not stick as the team continued to rotate players in and out almost every series throughout the game trying to find a combination that works.

Here is our breakdown of the line (left tackle to right tackle) for each of their 11 drives:

  • Drive 1: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Sebastian Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 2: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 3: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 4: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Marcus Cannon (Punt)
  • Drive 5: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
  • Drive 6: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Fumble)
  • Drive 7: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Interception)
  • Drive 8: Cannon, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Touchdown)
  • Drive 9: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Ryan Wendell, Vollmer (Interception)
  • Drive 10: Solder: Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Cannon (Touchdown)
  • Drive 11: Cannon, Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Dan Connolly, Nate Solder
Patriots reportedly set to shake up offensive line 09.29.14 at 2:42 pm ET
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Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

The Patriots are expected to shake up the offensive line on Monday night, moving rookie Bryan Stork to the role of starting center, while installing another rookie — Cameron Fleming — at right guard and slotting the versatile Dan Connolly at the other guard position.

Meanwhile, Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey, who have seen the bulk of the work at guard for the first three games, will apparently sit, at least for now. In addition, Ryan Wendell will move to a backup role. The moves come in the wake of some struggles up front over the course of the first three games of the season, a stretch where the team has had issues when it comes to pass protection.

Stork, who stepped in at center in the late stages of last week’€™s win over the Raiders, arrives at the NFL level with a peerless resume, having played some guard before moving to the pivot, where he eventually won the Rimington Award last year as college football’€™s best center. A captain and three-year starter at Florida State, he was a part of last season’€™s national championship team.

“€œHe’€™€™s really a football guy; loves football, works really hard at football,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Stork on Saturday. “He wants to be a football player and he’€™€™s dedicated himself to it; all those qualities that you love in any player but especially an offensive linemen. He’€™€™s got strength; he’€™€™s got a good frame for a center. He’€™€™s got good length and height. He played in a good program, he’€™€™s well coached, pretty good fundamental player. I thought he was as good as any center that we saw this year, the last couple years.”

Fleming played right tackle over the course of his career at Stanford — he said he got some work at right guard in college “as a joke” — but took some reps at right guard this week in practice. In his relatively brief NFL career, he has shown himself to be a steady and dependable blocker, mostly working as an extra tight end/tackle eligible in running situations.

As for Wendell, he could be in the mix now to serve as a backup at either guard or center going forward.

“He’€™€™s played both for us,”€ Belichick said of Wendell, who has fundamentally been the starting center in New England since 2012. ‘€œRyan’€™€™s a really smart player. He’€™€™s one of the smartest players that we have, that we’€™€™ve had. He really understands everything that we’€™€™re doing, including all the communication with the quarterback and so forth.”

The news was first reported by Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe.

Read More: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Dan Connolly, Jordan Devey
Unlucky Seven: Who will end up sitting against the Chiefs? at 12:20 pm ET
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Zach Moore

Zach Moore

The Patriots will announce their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Monday night, but based on what we’€™ve seen this week and the matchup on Monday, here’€™s our guess as to which seven players might be inactive:

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard — The third-year corner was downgraded Sunday night — expect Logan Ryan to get the bulk of the snaps in his place.

Running back James White — Unless there’s a major injury in the backfield, the rookie out of Wisconsin appears to be a ticketed for a redshirt year.

Safety Don Jones — Jones, who was signed earlier this month, was listed as probable on Saturday’s injury report, as he’s been nagged by a hamstring issue that kept him out of last Sunday’s game against the Raiders.

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell — The Patriots have a surplus of wide receivers — Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thomplins have each taken at least one health scratch over the course of the first two weeks. From this viewpoint, it’s no disrespect intended toward Lafell — he’s just the one who drew the short straw this week.

Defensive end Zach Moore — Now that second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan is back to full health, the rookie out of Concordia appears to be the odd man out, at least at this point.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly — The veteran was limited over the course of the week with a knee issue, and with Bill Belichick talking up both Ryan Wendell and Bryan Stork on Saturday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots sit Connolly for a week.

Defensive lineman Casey Walker — Walker, who was signed off the Panthers practice squad on Saturday following the announcement that Sealver Siliga was placed on short-term IR, will almost certainly take a seat for Monday’s game against the Chiefs as he literally just showed up.

Here’€™s a look at the inactives over the first three weeks of the season:

Week 1
DE Michael Buchanan
WR Aaron Dobson
LB Darius Fleming
DT Chris Jones
G Josh Kline
C Bryan Stork
RB James White

Week 2
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
CB Alfonzo Dennard
DE Zach Moore
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
C Ryan Wendell
RB James White

Week 3
WR Aaron Dobson
CB Alfonzo Dennard
OL Ryan Wendell
OL Josh Kline
DE Zach Moore
RB James White
S Don Jones

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Brandon LaFell, Casey Walker, Dan Connolly
Patriots list 6 as probable for Monday, including CB Alfonzo Dennard, TE Rob Gronkowski and LB Jamie Collins 09.27.14 at 4:16 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

On Saturday, the Patriots listed six played as probable for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs, including cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Jamie Collins. In addition, the Patriots officially placed defensive lineman Sealver Siliga on injured reserve-designated for return with a foot injury.

Here’s the complete injury report

Did Not Participate — Placed on IR-DFR
DT Sealver Siliga (ankle)

Limited — Probable
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
OL Dan Connolly (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
S Don Jones (hamstring)

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Dan Connolly, Don Jones, Jamie Collins
Bill Belichick: Dan Connolly ‘does a lot of things right’ 09.24.14 at 1:41 pm ET
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Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — If you’re looking for a bright spot on the much maligned Patriots offensive line, Bill Belichick would offer up the name Dan Connolly.

“Dan’€™s been good. He’€™s been good every year,” Belichick said of the 32-year-old veteran of nine NFL seasons who has moved between center and right guard this season.

“He’€™s been one of our most consistent, dependable players; smart. You can always count on him. He played left guard, he’€™s played center, he’€™s played right guard. He played tackle in college. He’€™s played all those positions along the line. He’€™s really kind of been pretty seamless when he’€™s had to move from one spot to another.”

Like Mankins, Connolly is 32. And like Mankins, Connolly was named a team captain this year as an offensive lineman. But unlike Mankins, the Patriots view Connolly as very affordable, playing in the third and final year of a contract that is paying him a total of $9.75 million.

With Bryan Stork starting at center a distinct possibility Monday night, Connolly would slot in as the starting right guard, a position Belichick knows the Southeast Missouri product can handle. And he’s clearly the leader of the line and somebody Tom Brady trusts.

“Well prepared guy, rarely makes mistakes, works hard, great offseason worker,” Belichick said. “He’€™s been like that for a number of years for us. I think one of the guys who [we] really count on. [He] goes about it quietly; he doesn’€™t have a big Matt Light personality or anything like that. He just does his job and does it dependably. He’€™s very well respected in that locker room and the coaching staff and in the entire organization. He does a lot of things right.”

Undrafted out of Southeast Missouri in 2005, Connolly was signed by the Jaguars as a free agent on April 24, 2005. He made the team’s 53-man roster and spent the rest of the season on it. He was placed on injured reserve by the Jaguars on Sept. 2, 2006. Connolly was waived by the Jaguars on Sept. 1, 2007. Twelve days later he signed with the Patriots and has been in New England ever since, with a brief two-day absence due to being waived in Oct. 2008.

Connolly made the 53-man roster in 2009 and started four games at right guard in place of an injured Stephen Neal. During the season, he received a contract extension through the 2011 season.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots
LB Jerod Mayo’s absence from Wednesday practice not injury related 09.17.14 at 5:59 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Jerod Mayo‘s absence from Wednesday practice was not injury related, according to the team.

The veteran linebacker was not spotted during the media portion of practice on Wednesday, and was identified as missing the session — however, the team noted on the injury report that it was not the result of an injury issue. In addition to Mayo’s absence, the only other player who was noted as out from today’s practice was safety Don Jones, who reportedly has a hamstring issue.

The Patriots also listed nine players as limited, including tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee), linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell.

Here’s a look at the complete report:

Did Not Practice
LB Jerod Mayo (not injury related)
S Don Jones (hamstring)

Limited
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
OL Dan Connolly (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
WR Julian Edelman (back)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
DT Sealver Siliga (hand)
RB Shane Vereen (shoulder)
OL Ryan Wendell (knee)

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Dan Connolly, Don Jones, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo
Dan Connolly, Nate Solder vow better effort in protecting Tom Brady 09.10.14 at 8:58 pm ET
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Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — There’s a time-tested expression in the NFL that the film don’t lie.

This week, every Patriots offensive lineman had to sit through meetings early in the week and take a look at what happened in Miami and figure out why it was open season on Tom Brady last Sunday.

Teams that take a look at that film are going to think that they can pin their ears back and get to Brady. It’s up to veterans like Nate Solder and Dan Connolly to bring the unit together and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I think that’s a goal a lot of times when teams play us,” newly appointed captain Dan Connolly said Wednesday. “It’s up to us to make sure we firm up the pocket and protect the quarterback. We just have to put the last game behind us.”

“Man, we’re working on everything,” Solder added. “We didn’t feel real happy with anything we did last game so we went back to our fundamentals and are working on everything. It’s a lot of basic stuff. It’s a lot of stuff that we know how to do and can improve.

“There is a process of developing your own skills, no matter who you’re playing against. But as the week goes, you have to hone in on your skills for a particular opponent. It’s a combination because (the Dolphins) are very good players and that made it tough on us when we didn’t use the proper techniques.”

In a game that featured musical chairs along the line, Connolly was the only lineman to play two positions, as he alternated from starting center to left guard.

“I was the guy moving. I do my job in both spots and just focus on that,” Connolly said.

The biggest difference at right guard and center?

“I don’t have to snap the ball,” Connolly said of playing right guard. “I’m looking at the same thing the center is looking at. The center is a little more vocal, making sure everybody is on the same page but as a whole, we all need to know what’s going on, see where the linebackers are and kind of anticipate where pressures are coming and ultimately, just block the front.

Connolly, when at center, is calling out protections along the line and is the man responsible for bringing together the likes of Solder, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Cameron Fleming, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Sebastian Vollmer

“There’s definitely a chemistry involved but I think we do a good job here of rotating guys through and building a chemistry with multiple groups, and not just playing with five guys in practice and throw somebody else in there and it’s confusion,” Connolly said. “We play with different guys so I think we’re ready when other guys come into the game.

“You never know when you’re going to lose a guy so guys always have to be ready.”

Read More: Dan Connolly, minnesota vikings, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
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