|Dan Connolly, Nate Solder vow better effort in protecting Tom Brady||09.10.14 at 8:58 pm ET|
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.”
|Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Patriots offensive line was ‘worn out’ against Dolphins||09.08.14 at 10:00 am ET|
Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots offensive line had trouble throughout the second half against the Dolphins defensive front. Hasselbeck said Miami’s hits on Tom Brady in the second half changed the complexion of the entire game.
“You look at hits on Brady in the first half, to hits on Brady in the second half, it was a different game. It goes to show you that Tom didn’t have a chance in the second half. Whether it was Jared Odrick beating [Dan] Connolly, whether it was Cameron Wake on a tight end and a back, whether it was Cameron Wake on Sebastian Vollmer. I’ve got three plays where you’re either dealing with a sack-fumble or a hit on the quarterback where [Brady] doesn’t have three seconds to get rid of the football. When you look at it in that regard, there has to be something with that offensive line, which by the way has been a concern for them throughout training camp in terms of the combination that they were going to play with. I think they were worn out. … They got tired.”
Some wondered whether the Patriots should have used more creativity to get the ball out of Brady’s hands quicker. Hasselbeck said the Patriots did an effective job of that in the first 30 minutes.
“In the first half, as I’m taking notes on stuff, I was impressed with the creativity of some of that stuff — how they were using [Julian] Edelman, and how they were doing things where, like the jet sweep a great example. To get that from them you start to say, ‘OK, I like the creativity of it.’ ”
The trade of offensive lineman Logan Mankins for tight end Tim Wright has been a source of controversy since it occurred, and many blame the deal for the line’s struggles on Sunday. Hasselbeck said the trade was not the cause of the issues.
“Logan wasn’t going to be blocking Cameron Wake. Cameron Wake gave them fits. Dan Connolly is blocking his man, and he gets beat by his man. Is the outcome of the game is different? I don’t think there’s any shot the outcome of the game is any different.”
|Dan Connolly: ‘An honor’ to be named an offensive captain||09.03.14 at 7:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Now that the dust has settled and Logan Mankins is officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots offensive line has moved on and begun life without the former captain and nine-year member of the team.
Dan Connolly was named an offensive captain Wednesday for the first time in his nine years in the league, but he knows he can’t individually take over for what Mankins left, as it is going to take a group effort.
“I think as a whole offensive line we have a good group of guys,” Connolly said. “We didn’t just follow one guy. Yes, [Mankins] was our leader, but we all take it upon ourselves to kind of take over that role and I guess they’ve elected my as an offensive captain. It’s an honor. Everybody has to do their part to get ready for the game.”
The 32-year-old’s story is unique as he played in just two games in his first two seasons in the league with the Jaguars and then joined the Patriots’ practice squad for two more seasons before appearing in four games during the 2009 season. Over the past four years, Connolly has started in 54 of 57 games. Even with that, entering this year, he was looked at by some as a possible cut because of his $3 million salary as a lineman at age 32.
Seeing first-hand how his perseverance paid off, naturally he can be looked up to by some of the younger players on the team.
“Everything’s been worthwhile the entire way — just having a job,” Connolly said. “Right now, it’s a great honor but we have a game this week so I’m going to put all my focus into that.”
While it remains to be seen exactly where Connolly will play on the line this coming week — he’s played center as well as right and left guard over the course of his career — he’s already speaking like a Patriot captain would.
“We each individually need to do our job and we know our opponent that is in front of us and we each need to go out there, prepare and play tough,” he said.
|What to watch for in Thursday’s Patriots-Giants preseason finale||08.28.14 at 7:30 am ET|
Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Giants in the preseason finale for both teams.
WHO DOESN’T PLAY
When it comes to the preseason finale, it’s just as important to figure out who doesn’t play as opposed to who does play. As we detailed here, if you’re a starter — or even a veteran — and you find yourself on the field for anything more than 10-15 snaps on Thursday night, it’s a bad sign. (The only area where this might be an exception is along the interior of the offensive line, for reasons we will address shortly.) Based on the work the Patriots were able to put in last week against the Panthers when they looked mostly razor sharp on both sides of the ball, don’t expect many of the starters to see the field against the Giants, despite the fact that we know New York is going to roll out its starters for between 15-18 snaps.
A good chunk of this relates back to the first point — we know quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to start and get the bulk of the snaps. But given the fact that history tells us those who don’t play are likely to have a secure roster spot, we’ll be keeping an eye on a few first-year players and monitoring their playing time. Cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back James White have been among the rookies who have played well enough to land a roster spot over the course of the summer — if they end up sitting Thursday night, it’s a good bet they’ve made the roster.
Thursday will be the first professional start for Garoppolo, and he’ll get a chance to show what he can do against a No. 1 defense for the first time in the preseason. The New England coaching staff will be interested in seeing him in as many different situations as possible: two-minute, end-of-half, under pressure from a steady rush, as well as a potential four-minute offense situation. Everything is on the table when it comes to evaluating Garoppolo. From this viewpoint, Ryan Mallett still is the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but the rookie will get his opportunity to show what he can do come Thursday evening in North Jersey.
|QB Tom Brady talks about butts||08.14.14 at 7:30 am ET|
Tom Brady has a lot of respect for his centers.
The quarterback talked Wednesday about just how much he’s appreciated the work of Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell over the last few seasons and the chemistry he’s enjoyed with them. The result was an out-of-context smirkfest.
“I’ve got confidence in those guys,” Brady said. “I love both Dan and Wendy. I love those guys. They work so hard.
“The center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I’ve got my hands on their butts probably more than their wives, so it’s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”
Clearly, we’ve reached the dog days of training camp.
|Centers of attention: Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork all in spotlight||08.04.14 at 7:00 am ET|
One of the more interesting positions over the first week-plus of Patriots training camp has been center, where Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork have all gotten plenty of work.
Wendell enters the 2014 season as the incumbent, having served as the No. 1 center for the better part of the last two years. A favorite of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, he’s played almost more snaps than anyone else in the league since the start of the 2012 season.
It’s been a long journey for the 28-year-old Wendell, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, got his first series of starts along the interior in 2010 and moved into the starting center position in 2012.
“When Ryan first got here, he couldn’t even make our practice squad,” Belichick recalled earlier this summer when asked about the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell. “He was a camp player [and] wasn’t on our practice squad at the beginning of the season. We brought him back to the practice squad during his first year.
“I’d say it’s been about as big of a progression as really any player could have, any player I’ve had or any player could have — maybe Steve Neal. But it’s the same kind of thing — guys [who] weren’t even on the practice squad that eventually became starting players in the NFL. That’s a pretty big jump. It took a lot of time, a lot of hard work and he’s certainly done his part and worked hard. He’s a very smart football player, and doesn’t have many missed assignments.”
At the same time, he figured to be pushed by the 23-year-old Stork, a rookie with a peerless college resume — he won the Rimington Award last year as the best center in college football in 2013, and was a captain for the national champions from Florida State.
“Bryan was a pretty durable player,” Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio said of the 6-foot-4, 313-pound Stork, who started 41 games as a collegian with the Seminoles. “He played a lot of football. He played against good people.
“Smart guy, tough, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things, and there was a lot to like about him.”
However, one player who has really emerged has been the 31-year-old Connolly, a part-time center who has really made his bones the last few years as the starting right guard. When Stork went down with an undisclosed injury — he’s missed three of the eight practices this summer as a result — the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Connolly stepped in as the backup, while Marcus Cannon took many of the reps at right guard. The move appeared to be a chance to take some of the reps from Wendell and give the starter a bit of a rest. But to this point, Connolly has performed well, and has added some more spice to the mix.
Read the rest of this entry »
|Takeaways from our Thursday morning talk with Logan Mankins||04.17.14 at 1:49 pm ET|
1. He sounds optimistic about the upcoming transition period for the New England offensive line.
For the first time since shortly after the earth cooled, Dante Scarnecchia will not be coaching the Patriots offensive line. It’ll be an interesting stretch for Mankins, who will be losing the only position coach he’s known at the professional level. However, Mankins said new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo “seems like a great guy, and I look forward to working with him.”
“It’s going to be a big change,” Mankins said when asked about moving on from Scarnecchia. “I was lucky enough to have him for nine seasons. I wish that could have continued. But he put in his time and he earned the right to retire. Last time I talked to him, he was enjoying life right now and he’s staying busy. But it will be a lot different. That’s the only o-line coach I’ve known for quite a while now, so, it’ll be a bit of a change.”
What does Mankins want out of a new coach?
“Personally, I just want a coach that’s fair, he’s going to treat everyone the same — there’s no one on a pedestal,” he said. “I think I learned to appreciate that from Dante. He was a hard coach, but he was a fair coach. We always knew he had our backs. He demanded a lot of us, but I think that’s what made a lot of us good players. That’s why he was such a successful coach and lasted so long.”
2. He’s been working a lot with fellow guard Dan Connolly this offseason.
According to Mankins, for the first time in several years, both Mankins and Connolly aren’t dealing with any sort of offseason rehab for surgery. As a result, the two have been working together in the area to ‘get after it’ for a few hours every morning. He said
“It’s been a good partnership right now,” Mankins said. “In years past, I had surgeries, he had surgeries, we had the whole lockout thing. We used to (train) a long time ago until certain things changed that, so this year was nice to get back together.
“We meet every morning at a certain time and get after it for a few hours then go home. It’s always nice to have someone to work out with, especially at your own position, that you are working on the same things,” Mankins said. “We’ve been pushing each other and it’s been working out well.”
Right now, Mankins said it’s just “the big boys throwing around weights.” That will transition to the start of the offseason program on Monday, where coaches can get involved. At that point, it’s expected that more cardio will be worked into the mix. Mankins said center Ryan Wendell has also been present since re-signing about three weeks ago, while youngsters Jordan Devey and Chris Barker have also been present.
(For what it’s worth, Mankins also sounded an optimistic note on the state of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who went down in October with a season ending leg injury. “He looks good right now, too. I don’t know his whole update right now, but he looks good and I know he’s working hard,” Mankins said of Vollmer. “There’s good promise there.”)
3. There’s something to be said for continuity.
If everyone returns healthy, the Patriots will have a chance to utilize the same five starting offensive linemen they had at the beginning of the 2013 season — Vollmer (right tackle), Connolly (right guard), Wendell (center), Mankins, (left guard) and Nate Solder (left tackle).
“It’s always good,” said Mankins when asked about continuity. “We know what were doing, (but) it always comes down to making the right blocks and doing a good job. We like the group we have. We like the guys in that room. They’re all hard working guys and they try very hard and they work hard. I think we could have a good season together.
“I look forward to seeing everyone get back and everyone getting to work together finally,” he added. “It’s always exciting, kind of like your first day back at school, I guess. You get to see everyone after the break, get to catch up with some friends you haven’t seen too much of lately, and get to work together, push each other, and see if other guys have been working as hard as you have.”
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