|Countdown to camp: Offensive line||07.23.15 at 11:12 am ET|
As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the wide receivers and moved on to the tight ends. Now, it’s the offensive line.
Depth chart: David Andrews (rookie), Tre Jackson (rookie), Chris Barker, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Caylin Hauptmann, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason (rookie), Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Jordan Devey, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
1. While there are other players with more experience in the system, the new leader of the line is Bryan Stork. The FSU product, who remains the spiritual descendent of Logan Mankins (right down to the occasionally questionable facial hair, the nasty attitude and preternatural skill set), stepped into the center spot last year as a rookie and immediately stabilized the line. There were some durability issues as the season went on (he missed the AFC title game with a knee injury, and he was actually listed as questionable in the days leading up to the Super Bowl), but he was far and away the pick for New England’s Rookie of the Year in 2014. As long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think that Stork won’t be the Patriots’ franchise center for the next decade.
2. Nate Solder probably deserves a pass for any issues he may have had last season. The left tackle out of Colorado appeared to struggle at times over the course of 2014, but still managed to hold up well while protecting Tom Brady‘s blind side over the course of the season, and earned his first Super Bowl ring along the way. But in hindsight, the news that he had been treated for testicular cancer last spring means he fundamentally gets a mulligan for what happened in 2014. Bottom line? Solder isn’t the sort to make excuses, but we’ll give him an out here. Given a clean bill of health, we fully expect Solder to return to the same high-level status he enjoyed over the course of his first three seasons in the NFL.
3. While there are some questions about how he reacts under pressure, Tom Brady still remains really good at gauging the state of the New England offensive line. We’ve hit on this many times over the last few years, but it’s tough trying to quantify good offensive line play — in many cases, you don’t necessarily need the five best pure linemen. Instead, it’s the five who work the best as a unit, so it takes time to find the best combinations. While the Patriots were going through those issues at the start of the 2014 season, one of the things that appeared to help turn things around (in addition to the evolution of Stork) was a concerted effort from Brady to speed up his release times. It’s important to remember that things vary from week-to-week depending on opponent, scheme and personnel, but looking at Brady’s release times over the course of the 2014 season, it was clear that getting the ball out fast in the passing game was a real point of emphasis for the New England offense. (For a deeper dive into those numbers from last season, check out Ryan Hannable’s excellent story here.)
|Ex-Pats OL coach Dante Scarnecchia honored by PFWA||06.22.15 at 1:52 pm ET|
The Professional Football Writers of America announced Monday that former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is one of three winners of this year’s Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award.
Scarnecchia, who was honored along with Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore, retired following the 2013 season after 30 seasons with the team and 32 in the NFL. He still managed to stay in the game over the last year-plus, as he served as a sounding board for the Patriots, especially when it came to working out collegiate prospects in the run-up to the 2015 draft.
“In an industry of constant change, Dante remained a fixture here for the simple reason that he helped every player reach his highest potential, regardless of who he was, how he was acquired or how much raw talent he had,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick in a statement following Scarnecchia’s retirement. “In whatever category a coach can be assessed — evaluator, teacher, motivator, problem solver, disciplinarian, team player, winner — Dante is as good as it gets.”
Scarnecchia is in pretty good company: LeBeau, who was recently let go by the Steelers after serving the last 11 seasons as their defensive coordinator, is now working as the Titans assistant head coach. Meanwhile, Moore is the assistant head coach/offense for the Cardinals, where he’s working his 37th season as an NFL head coach after having worked with the Steelers, Vikings, Lions and Colts.
|Bill Belichick: Former OL coach Dante Scarnecchia did ‘great job’ assisting in pre-draft evaluation process||05.04.15 at 11:41 am ET|
Over the course of the spring, former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia popped up along the way at several pro days, working out prospects at Florida State, South Carolina and Duke.
Shortly after the draft concluded, Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about Scarnecchia’s unique level of involvement in the run-up to this year’s draft — as the Patriots played all the way into February and the coaching staff had its attention elsewhere (or on other matters through March and April), the trusted Scarnecchia was able to serve as an extra set of eyes through some key dates in the pre-draft process.
“Given the way our season went this year — the length of it and the offseason schedule and so forth — he was able to help us out and go do a few things for us in the draft process that were very helpful,” Belichick said of Scarnecchia, who retired shortly after the 2013 season.
“He did a great job. He obviously has a lot of experience with our system, a lot of experience with players that are on our roster for comparison sake, players that we’ve drafted or evaluated in the past. So we kind of asked him to help us out in a situation where we were kind of, I’d say a little bit from a personnel standpoint, a little bit behind the curve there. He was available and he did a great job.”
You could certainly argue that Scarnecchia input had something to do with the selection of Florida State offensive lineman Tre Jackson in the fourth round — Scarnecchia was present at FSU’s pro day, and he maintains a deep and abiding friendship with Seminoles offensive line coach Rick Trickett.
Shortly after he was selected, Jackson talked about the chance to work with Scarnecchia at his pro day.
“Well, he just came down for practices and things like that — to watch practices,” Jackson said of Scarnecchia. “He’s a great coach; he was a great coach. Just being able to get advice from him was a great opportunity.
“He was telling me to continue to work hard and that the coach that I had in Coach Trickett was a great coach. Coach Trickett was coaching the techniques and stuff that he was coaching. (Just) continue to believe and trust in the techniques, take them to the field and continue to work hard.”
|Nick Caserio: Dante Scarnecchia has been ‘great resource’ when it comes to pre-draft evaluation||04.22.15 at 3:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the pre-draft process, it’s all hands on deck.
At least that’s the way that Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio looks at it. Coaches and scouts are all part of the process when it comes to pre-draft evaluation. That means ex-coaches as well, including former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia — even though Scarnecchia abruptly retired after the 2013 season.
Scarnecchia has been a ubiquitous presence on the pre-draft radar, showing up at several pro days over the course of the last two months while working out prospects at Florida State, South Carolina, Florida and Duke. Caserio said that when it comes to Scarnecchia, it’s not out of the ordinary to have him involved in the process.
“I would say that there’s a lot of people that have been involved in the process this time of the year,” Caserio said Wednesday when asked about Scarnecchia’s involvement with the team this spring. “Every coach in the building has worked out players. I would say that there’s a number of people in the personnel department that have worked out players.
“Dante has a lot of experience in our system. He’s a great resource. He’s been a great resource for us. It’s something that we decided that might be helpful to us in the entire process. Dante has a lot of experience in our system, and he has a lot of insight. I’d say it’s kind of worked out,” Caserio added. “We can’t cover everybody. We’re trying to take our resources and allocate our resources the best we can to try to get as much information as possible on a player however we can do it.”
|Ex-Pats OL coach Dante Scarnecchia works out Duke G Laken Tomlinson||04.14.15 at 4:03 pm ET|
Former Patriots assistant Dante Scarnecchia was a ubiquitous presence on the pro day circuit this spring, working out offensive linemen at Georgia Tech, Florida State and South Carolina. Now comes word that New England’s ex-offensive line coach was at Duke earlier this spring getting a good look at Blue Devils offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson.
Duke held its pro day on March 25, and while no one apparently spotted Scarnecchia at the time, he was on the grounds, working with Tomlinson — who is expected to be one of the first guards taken in the draft. In a pre-draft diary with Chicagofootball.com, Tomlinson writes that he spent time with Scarnecchia and Pittsburgh assistant Shaun Sarrett.
I did offensive line work with Coach [Dante] Scarnecchia of the Patriots and Coach [Shaun] Sarrett of the Steelers. They had us working for a while. It was good work, but we were out there for what seemed like forever. It was tough, but I felt like I did well in every drill. I felt like I could listen and follow the instructions of the coaches. I had a lot of fun out there. Overall, it was a great experience.
Tomlinson is a 6-foot-3, 330-pounder who achieved several honors while at Duke. He was a member of the 2014 AP All-America first team, as well as the 2014 All-ACC first team. He was also a 2014 team captain and a 2013 All-ACC second teamer. Many consider him a possibility to be taken between the mid-first and late-second rounds.
|Dante Scarnecchia shows up at Florida pro day||04.07.15 at 1:17 pm ET|
There are position coaches who are in the NFL right now who aren’t as active as Dante Scarnecchia.
The former Patriots offensive line coach was spotted Tuesday morning at Florida pro day, putting some of the Gators’ offensive line prospects through their paces. Scarnecchia, who was spotted at South Carolina and Florida State pro days last week, is apparently continuing to work in an advisory role for the franchise.
Florida has been a longtime favorite of the Patriots, but those numbers have diminished the last few seasons, as Urban Meyer — a longtime friend of Bill Belichick — has moved on to Ohio State. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few offensive linemen for Scarnecchia to take a look at, including D.J. Humphries, an offensive tackle who is considered a late first-round talent, despite the fact that he’s decided to forego his senior season and enter the draft. (In our latest mock draft, we have Humphries going 25th overall to the Panthers.)
There are some health concerns about Humphries, but when he’s been healthy, he’s been impressive. A 6-foot-5, 307-pounder, he played in 29 career games with 19 starts at Florida. In 2013, he played in seven games while starting six, but missed the final five games with a sprained MCL, and in 2014, he missed two more games because of injury.
|5 things we learned at NFL combine from Patriots perspective||02.23.15 at 6:58 pm ET|
The 2015 NFL combine wrapped up in Indianapolis on Monday, and here are five things we learned, mostly from a Patriots perspective:
1. Deflategate won’t go away
Sadly, the whole Deflategate situation didn’t go away at the combine, it just got talked about even more after a few quiet weeks following the Super Bowl. The big development was Colts general manager Ryan Grigson saying the Colts notified the NFL of suspicions they had of the Patriots the week leading up to AFC championship game. Going by Grigson, the NFL was aware of the Patriots potentially using under inflated footballs, and the NFL didn’t do anything about it until halftime. Also coming up last week was the revelation of an NFL employee being fired as part of a memorabilia sting — stealing game balls for himself that were intended for charity. It seems this story will not die until the Ted Wells investigation is completed, and even then there may be more to this story. It’s also worth noting the Patriots will play the Colts in Indianapolis next season.
2. Another offensive lineman?
Joining Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and the rest of the staff at the combine was former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who for a second straight season has assisted the Patriots leading up to the draft. It’s possible the Patriots have plans to select another offensive lineman, as last season they drafted two — Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming — with Scarnecchia’s input. His presence in Indianapolis this week conducting interviews with players may suggest the team has plans to select another one, especially on the interior given how much longer Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell have with the team. Scarnecchia has long-lasting relationship with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, helping draft Stork last season, and the Seminoles have a few other strong offensive line prospects this season as well, so it’s possible a Florida State-New England pipeline has been started.
3. Pats stay quiet
This wasn’t much of a surprise, but no members of the Patriots organization held formal press conferences, like most other teams. Belichick almost never speaks at the combine, although he did in 2014, so this isn’t exactly an earth-shattering development. Belichick did make headlines when he walked into the combine on Friday with Rex Ryan. Ryan had a throwback Thurman Thomas jersey on, while Belichick wore a hoodie for his foundation. Caserio did give a 1-on-1 interview with Patriots.com, where he talked about free agency and with the reality of the NFL, the Patriots will be a different team next year.
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