|Josh McDaniels: The way Dante Scarnecchia works ‘demands respect’||11.27.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — All year, there have been concerns about the stability of the Patriots offensive line.
But somehow, some way, the Patriots have managed to cope with losses of Matt Light and Brian Waters at the beginning of the season. They have adapted to the loss of Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly for stretches at a time.
And last Thursday, they had to overcome the absence of Sebastian Vollmer to a late scratch. Ryan Wendell and Nate Solder have had their moments – mostly good.
But, without question, the one constant throughout it all has been their offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. At the beginning of the season, with the questions on the offensive line, there were many who wondered if Tom Brady would stay upright enough to be as productive as in years past. Well, Brady has thrown 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions, and the team has posted 407 points through 11 games, an average of exactly 37 points per game, better than even the 2007 team when they scored 589 points in a season.
So, when Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke on a conference call Tuesday, he was quick to give Scarnecchia credit for keeping it all together and developing back-up talent like Wendell, Nick McDonald, Marcus Cannon and Donald Thomas. Look at it as a way of saying, ‘Thanks, Dante.”
“I have an incredible respect and appreciation for [Scarnecchia],” McDaniels said. “I think when you talk about those players and the roles that they play on our team and the contributions that they’ve made, I don’t think you can talk about them without mentioning Dante because he does an incredible job of preparing all of them as if they’re all going to start and play for four quarters. He makes sure that they have reps. He makes sure that they understand all the communication and I have an incredible appreciation and respect for him as their coach. With the guys you mentioned, the inside guys with Ryan being a starter and playing, I would say, really solidly inside for us all year, he’s a smart guy, he’s been in our program.
“I think it’s a tribute to him and what he’s gone through in terms of working his way from the practice squad to learning multiple positions and being on the ready for a number of years now and trying to improve himself all the while. And then this year, he really gets his opportunity and I think he’s really making the most of it. He’s a smart guy. He can play more than one position in there. Certainly he’s just playing center for us this year, but I think the value that he brings in there, the intelligence that he has and his ability to work hand in hand with Tom [Tom Brady] and our system and get the communication to the other linemen is invaluable. Again, I think his overall execution and performance has been really good for us.” Read the rest of this entry »
|New England represents a new beginning for Robert Gallery||07.28.12 at 5:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For Robert Gallery, opportunity could be knocking.
The veteran offensive lineman, who was signed as a free agent this offseason by the Patriots, is coming into an uncertain situation in New England. No one is saying much about the future of last year’s starting right guard Brian Waters, while starting left guard Logan Mankins is coming off offseason knee surgery. Meanwhile, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has sat out all spring and the first three days of summer because of a back problem.
That could create a chance for the 32-year-old Gallery to suddenly become a key part of New England’s offensive line. The former Raider and Seahawk, who has played both guard and tackle over the course of his eight-year career in the NFL, has seen a lot of time at right guard over the first three days of camp, working with a reasonable facsimile of the Patriots’ starting offense.
At this point in the summer, Gallery has to be aware of the situation, but said after practice on Saturday that he’s not letting that uncertainty affect the way he goes about his business on the field.
“It doesn’t really affect me at all. I come to work every day and work on what I have to do to get better as a player, and all that stuff will play itself out,” said Gallery, who was given Matt Light’s old No. 72. “I’m just here to work on my skill, get better every day and do what I can do to help the team. That will all be decided once camp is over.”
Gallery, who was taken second overall (behind Eli Manning) in the 2004 draft, appeared to struggle at times in his professional career. (To be fair, seven seasons in Oakland can wear on a guy.) But after spending the 2011 in Seattle, he welcomed the chance for a fresh start in New England.
And while his Patriots’ career is still in its’ early stages, he’s already flashed some flexibility. He’s played some guard and tackle, filling in where needed, and has already developed a positive working relationship with veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“[He’s] great. He’s a technician,” Gallery said of Scarnecchia. “He demands a lot, like a good coach should. It’s been enjoyable working with him so far. He pushes us to be the best, like he should do.
“It’s great,” he added. “I’m excited to be here and be here with this team, and just ready to get things rolling.”
|Reports: Patriots sign South Florida OL Jeremiah Warren as a UDFA||04.28.12 at 8:18 pm ET|
The Patriots have started signing undrafted free agents, with multiple outlets reporting Saturday that they have reached an agreement with South Florida offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren. A 6-foot-3, 336-pound offensive lineman, he’s displayed plenty of positional versatility, having played left guard and left tackle. He had a pre-draft workout with New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
|Draft day memories: It was a ‘comfortable and relaxing’ start for Nate Solder||04.23.12 at 4:39 pm ET|
With the NFL draft set for this week, we’re taking a look back at some draft day memories with some of the current Patriots. First up, tackle Nate Solder, who was New England’s first pick in the 2011 draft.
While many of last year’s top picks in the NFL draft spent the first night of the event at Radio City Music Hall, Nate Solder was roughly 2,000 miles away at a far less glamorous locale — Peri & Ed’s Mountain Hideaway in Leadville, Colo.
His parents’ bed and breakfast (described on Trip Advisor as “comfortable and relaxing”) was the first place where he found out he was a member of the New England Patriots.
“It’s an exciting time. I was at home, I remember, and I had all my family there,” he said, reflecting on that night a year ago where he started his NFL journey. “Like I said, I didn’t know where I was going to end up. I just hoped — I kept my mind off what the TV was saying, so I just kind of hoped that I ended up in a good program, and I was just lucky enough to end up [with the Patriots].”
Solder didn’t get a sense that the Patriots were interested until a few days before the draft when he was put through his paces by New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia in a private workout.
“I wasn’t surprised because people say be prepared for anything,” Solder said. “I was kind of prepared for odd things like that. I remember that meeting and I thought he was an exceptional coach.”
The 17th overall selection, the Colorado product appeared in all 19 of the Patriots’ games (16 regular season, three postseason), starting 15, including 13 at right tackle and two as part of a three tight-end alignment. He led all Patriots’ rookies in total snaps played, and became an integral part of the New England offensive line in his first season in the league.
But he certainly won’t forget the first steps of what is a yearlong journey.
“I remember coming into camp, I didn’t know what direction the field was. I didn’t know where the locker room was. I didn’t know anything,” Solder said. “Just to have those things under my belt [now] will be nice.”
|Free Agent Snapshot: Carl Nicks||02.15.12 at 2:10 pm ET|
We continue our on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Offensive guard
Weight: 343 pounds
Two points: One, we’ve been down this road with Nicks before. And two, this whole entry should be led with the following disclaimer: If Brian Waters decides to retire, then Nicks would be the next best option for the Patriots. Waters said after the Super Bowl that he’d taken two to three weeks to decide on his future, and if he does choose to return, then the whole idea of Nicks to New England is moot. But if Waters does choose to hang ‘em up, the Patriots should focus their attention on landing Nicks, a Nebraska product who was a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2008.
This wouldn’t be the sort of marquee, skill position signing along the lines of a Vincent Jackson (or even Reggie Wayne) that would get people talking, but the addition of Nicks — who is expected to leave the Saints — would certainly give a big boost to New England’s offensive line. A two-time All-Pro, he’s finished first (2009), first (2010) and second (2011) in Pro Football Focus rankings the past three years, and PFF has him as the fourth-best free agent on the market.
There are some hard decisions to make regarding the interior of the New England offensive line this offseason, as center Dan Koppen and center/guard Dan Connolly are both free agents. The Patriots have Ryan Wendell as a quality backup at both positions, as well as center Nick McDonald, but if Waters does decide to retire (or they don’t re-sign Koppen and/or Connolly) and they don’t believe Wendell is a long-term answer as a starting guard, they would be wise to at least kick the tires on Nicks.
Why it might not work: We already covered the Waters angle. In addition, Nicks could balk at the idea of moving from left to right guard. I’ll also be curious to see how the market for free-agent guards shakes out — Nicks is presumed to be the best of the bunch, but it’s a group that also includes Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs and Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis. And historically, other than Waters, the Patriots have been reticent to bring in veteran offensive linemen, choosing instead to cultivate their own younger talent under the guidance of veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
|Matt Light: Keeping Tom Brady ‘upright’ key to beating Giants, winning 4th ring||02.01.12 at 4:26 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — It may not come under the category of breaking news but Patriots left tackle Matt Light – protector of his quarterback’s blind side – knows keeping Tom Brady upright will go a long way toward determining whether the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl title on Sunday.
“Every guy upfront has a job to do,” Light said. “We just go out there and play the game that we learned. Keeping [Brady] upright is a big part of that.”
Light was actually asked if he feels like Brady’s guardian angel.
“I’m not sure how he categorizes me, but I’m pretty sure guardian angel is a far cry from that,” Light joked.
“We are going to do what we have done all season. We are going to have a great week of preparation. We are going to go out there and be technically sound at what we do and we’re going to go all out.”
His offensive line coach – Dante Scarnecchia – has watched Light enjoy one of the more productive and protective years of his 11-year NFL career.
“He’s had a nice year,” Scarnecchia said. “He’s been very consistent and he’s worked really hard. And he’s been a good a leader as he’s always been. And between Matt and Logan and Brian, we have three guys there with a wealth of experience. Very tough guys. Very great workers. The young guys, they would do well to try and emulate those guys, their work ethic and the way they play. And they do. As the result of that they make us all better. They make us all better. They make me a better coach, and they make those guys better players.”
Brady, Light and Kevin Faulk are the last three players remaining from New England’s first Super Bowl title in 2001.
“It’s hard to believe that in one career you can go to this thing five times,” Light said. “It never gets old and is always a lot of fun. To have guys that have been with you the whole time is something you never forget.
“Every game could be your last go-around, that’s why you embrace it all. This is an awesome week for everybody. You want to play this one like it is your last.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Dante Scarnecchia: Sebastian Vollmer will play Sunday against the Giants||01.31.12 at 3:18 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said Tuesday that veteran tackle Sebastian Vollmer will play some sort of role on Sunday against the Giants. Vollmer, who has been on the shelf for the better part of the last two months because of back and foot problems, has been practicing for the last two weeks, and looks like he’ll be good to go.
“He’s very, very strong. He’s got great experience, and is not afraid of anyone. He’s a great alternative,” Scarnecchia said on Tuesday. “He’ll play. He’ll play in this game at some point, whether we have Nate [Solder] outside or him at tackle. He’s going to be out there, and thank God we’ve got him too.
“He’s had a good two weeks of practice,” Scarnecchia added. “He practiced a lot yesterday. Sebastian has been a starting tackle for us for two years and he’s started on the left and he’s started on the right. We think he’s an immensely talented guy. He’s an unselfish guy. How can that every hurt you? Whether he plays ‘X’ number of plays, or plays here or plays there, I’m glad we’ve got him going into this game.”
If Vollmer is able to go, that would give the Patriots some positional versatility at the tackle spot, an area where they have been lacking depth for the last month or so because of injuries to Vollmer and veteran left tackle Matt Light and a key position against a fierce pass rushing team like the Giants. With the inclusion of Vollmer, the Patriots can flex Solder out as an extra tight end and a blocker to try and slow down the New York pass defense (as they did in the first game against the Giants — in that one, Solder played 23 snaps as a tight end in the November loss to New York).
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