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5 things we learned at NFL combine from Patriots perspective 02.23.15 at 6:58 pm ET
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Things were relatively quiet for the Patriots at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Things were relatively quiet for the Patriots at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Jameis Winston
Sunday NFL Notes: Nick Caserio looks ahead to offseason, proclaims ‘our team is going to be different’ 02.22.15 at 7:00 am ET
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Nick Caserio

Nick Caserio

With Chris Price taking a well-deserved vacation this week, we’ll keep the Sunday NFL Notes going, hoping to live up to the high standard he sets every week.

1. At the NFL combine in Indianapolis this week, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio gave a 1-on-1 interview with Jackie Brittain of Patriots.com, hitting on a number of subjects (the interview can be seen here). One of those subjects was free agency and how it relates to what happens with cornerback Darrelle Revis. “We’re going through an evaluation process,” said Caserio. “When we get back here from the combine, we’ll actually go through pretty comprehensive analysis of our roster, go through player by player, strengths, weaknesses, what we see their role as and what their future’s gonna be moving forward. Those are decisions that will be made at the appropriate time. The reality is our team is going to be different from what it was last year. That’s just a reality of the NFL and a reality that every team faces. We’ll go through, and in the end we’ll do what we feel is best for the organization moving forward.”

As it stands now, the Patriots’ top order of business is Revis and getting him signed long-term instead of paying him $20 million for 2015. Then, they have Devin McCourty and Stephen Gostkowski as free agents, with the possibility of placing the franchise tag on either of them. Also set to become free agents are running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, so when Caserio says the team is going to be different next year, he isn’t lying.

2. In addition to Caserio at the combine, the Patriots have a number of coaches and executives present in Indianapolis this week. Coach Bill Belichick is there as always, and also accompanying him are recently retired assistant coaches in special teams coach Scott O’Brien and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. O’Brien retired after this past season, but will stay in the organization, while Scarnecchia is assisting Belichick at the combine like he did last year. Also seen at the combine this week was former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, as he’s been seen helping out the Patriots and Belichick a number of times over the last year. Current Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo has also been seen helping run drills during the week.

3. There aren’t too many local players at the combine this week. Representing the New England schools are: running back Tyler Varga from Yale, wide receiver Geremy Davis from UConn, tight end Jean Stifrin from UMass, offensive lineman Andy Gallik from Boston College, defensive lineman Zach Hodges from Harvard and defensive back Bryon Jones from UConn. While none of these players are expected to go very high in the draft, getting invited to the combine is a big accomplishment in itself. Stifrin from UMass has a pretty interesting story, as he is 27 years old — much older than most of the other combine participants. MassLive.com’s Kevin Duffy did a good job going into Stifrin’s past and telling his story.

4. The Schiano-Belichick connection has led to a number of Rutgers players becoming Patriots over the past few years. That pipeline may have gotten even stronger lately, as Josh McDaniels‘ brother Ben has been named offensive coordinator at the school. So, who could be the next Rutgers player drafted by the Patriots? Tight end Tyler Kroft could be a possibility and join former Rutgers player Tim Wright as Rob Gronkowski‘s backup. Kroft is looked at as more of a receiving threat than an in-line blocking tight end, so he would be a great complement to Gronkowski, given Gronkowski’s size and Kroft’s lack there of. Kroft weighed in at 246 pounds at the combine, the 16th heaviest tight end out of the 19 attending the workouts.

5. Here are a few interesting stats we dug up following the season:

  • The Patriots were 13-0 this season when scoring 23 or more points and are 160-12 under Belichick.
  • The Patriots finished 11-0 this season when scoring first.
  • Going into the Super Bowl the Seahawks allowed an average of 6.8 points per game in the second half of games this year — the Patriots scored 14 in Super Bowl XLIX.
  • According to Elias, the Patriots were the first team to reach the Super Bowl without having a player with 100 rush attempts during the season.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman
Could Patriots start pipeline of selecting players from Florida State? 02.20.15 at 2:49 pm ET
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Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dante Scarnecchia is close friends with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots struck gold last year when they selected Florida State center Bryan Stork in the fourth round.

Stork started at center in 11 games and was a key piece to the offensive line, specifically their turnaround after a rough first few weeks of the season, as Stork made his starting debut Week 4 in Kansas City.

Retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who has helped the Patriots out at the draft the past two years, including this year, has a long-time friendship with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, which played a role in the Patriots selecting Stork last year.

With the Patriots potentially in need for another interior lineman this year, the Patriots could be targeting another Seminole this year.

One of those could be guard Tre Jackson, who reportedly had a meeting with Scarnecchia and the Patriots this week in Indianapolis. at the NFL combine.

Jackson said Stork was part of the Florida State offensive linemen coming together leading into their National Championship in 2014.

“I believe Bryan Stork’s last year is the year that brought us all closer together,” said Jackson to reporters at the combine this week. “We all had some adversity that we were facing, and our chemistry wasn’t as tight at the start of fall camp. Things that we went through it brought us all closer together. That bonded us and molded us into a brotherhood.”

Also reportedly meeting with the Patriots this week from Florida State was tackle Bobby Hart, another offensive lineman who the Patriots could target given their Seminole connection.

Another possible player from Florida State the Patriots could target is tight end Nick O’Leary, as a possible complement to Rob Gronkowski. O’Leary, the grandson of golfer Jack Nicklaus, is known for his great hands as he hauled in 48 passes for 618 yards and six touchdowns this past year.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bryan Stork, Dante Scarnecchia, Nick O'Leary
5 things to look for at NFL combine from Patriots perspective 02.17.15 at 10:41 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the NFL combine last year and the Patriots selected him with their second round pick. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the NFL combine last year and the Patriots selected him with their second round pick. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NFL combine is set to kick off Wednesday in Indianapolis. where the top college prospects will work out in front of hundreds of scouts, team executives and coaches as organizations continue their preparations for the draft, which is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.

With the Patriots holding their Super Bowl victory parade just two weeks ago Wednesday, their staff has some catching up to do when it comes to looking at players outside their organization and coming from the college game. In fact, some members of the organization who usually attend the combine will not attend because of their recent workload with the long season.

Here are five things to look for from a Patriots perspective at the combine:

1. Who from the Patriots organization is attending?

Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and his team will have a heavy presence, who even with the Super Bowl run have been hard at work looking ahead to 2015. Coach Bill Belichick will be in attendance, as will former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who was spotted on a flight with Patriots staffers from Boston to Indianapolis on Tuesday. Scarnecchia, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, also attended the combine last season, and had a sizable impact in the Patriots selecting rookie center Bryan Stork in the fourth round.

The combine is usually the first time coaches and general managers speak after their respective seasons wrap up, but don’t expect to hear from Belichick or Caserio. Neither are scheduled to speak, but Belichick wasn’t scheduled to speak last year and he did (don’t hold your breath this year). New England will surely come up with other coaches and general managers, especially following their Super Bowl win and all things Deflategate related. Some notables who are speaking Wednesday are: Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jets coach Todd Bowles. Then on Thursday: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Colts coach Chuck Pagano and Broncos general manager John Elway. On Friday Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will speak.

2. On field workout schedule

Friday, Feb. 20: Specialists, offensive linemen, tight ends
Saturday, Feb. 21: Quarterbacks, running backs wide receivers
Sunday: Feb. 22: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Monday, Feb. 23: Defensive backs

This is where the players complete their drills including: 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three cone drill and the shuttle run.

3. Positions, players to watch

From a Patriots perspective, it’s unlikely they will be taking a skill player (quarterback, running back, wide receiver) high in the draft, so from both a viewing and a team perspective, they will be paying attention more so on Friday, Sunday and Monday, specifically Friday and Sunday. Their top two positions of need would seem to be offensive and defensive line. With the Patriots having the last pick in both the first and second round (No. 32 and 64 overall) they likely will not have some of the top players at those positions available when they select. With that in mind, here are some names from those positions to keep an eye on:

Offensive line: Andrus Peat, Stanford; Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M; T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh; Josue Matias, Florida State; Ereck Flowers, Miami.

Defensive line: Malcom Brown, Texas; Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; Michael Bennett, Ohio State; Carl Davis, Iowa; Ellis McCarthy, UCLA.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Nick Caserio
Dante Scarnecchia heads out to Indy to lend a helping hand in NFL combine at 6:07 pm ET
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Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The man who left the Patriots offensive line in the hands of Dave DeGuglielmo is still helping out where he can.

According to multiple reports, Dante Scarnecchia was on a flight from Boston to Indianapolis on Tuesday for the start of the NFL combine workouts in Indianapolis.

It was Scarnecchia who told the Boston Herald before Week 4 that he had faith that the offensive line would eventually gel and work well together. That faith was really tested when the Patriots, after Scarnecchia’s pronouncement, went out and were trounced 41-14 by the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sept. 29.

The key point to that gelling came with the insertion of rookie center Bryan Stork, a move that actually occurred in Kansas City, during the loss to the Chiefs. Stork was one player Scarnecchia referred to the Patriots after scouting him after retirement.

As it turns out, Scarnecchia, who retired from his offensive line job after the 2013 season, is still helping out, scouting players and advising Bill Belichick and the coaching staff. He’ll get that opportunity again this week.

Read More: Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo, New England Patriots,
Replacing a legend: How Patriots went with Dave DeGuglielmo to take over for Dante Scarnecchia 01.29.15 at 2:23 am ET
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Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo had a tough job replacing Dante Scarnechia but he did it well. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo had a tough job replacing Dante Scarnechia but he did it well. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It’s never easy replacing a legend — just imagine what it’s going to be like for whoever has to replace Tom Brady.

That was exactly what Dave DeGuglielmo was facing this season when he became the first Patriots’ offensive line coach in 24 years, as Dante Scarnecchia retired after last season. Scarnecchia had been a coach in the NFL since 1982, including different stints with the Patriots along the way.

Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday why he went with DeGuglielmo and the process that led to the hire to replace one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the history of the NFL.

“He was available –€“ he wasn’€™t in football last year,” said Belichick. “We interviewed him at the end of the season — I think it might have been during the bye week last year before the Indianapolis game if I remember correctly, but somewhere in there. Because we knew that Dante [Scarnecchia] was going to be retiring, we wanted to kind of try to jump on the process. Met with our staff, we all spent time with him, brought him back for a second interview and hired him. So not a normal process I would say. Again, he’€™s got a lot of experience, works hard, knows our system very well.”

DeGuglielmo was no stranger to people in the Patriots organization, as he served as the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins when current Patriots tight end coach Brian Daboll was the offensive coordinator a few years back.

He is also a local, being born and growing up in Lexington, Massachusetts and having coached at Boston University when they had a football team.

He has served as an offensive line coach with the Giants from 2004-08, the Dolphins in 2012 and the Jets in 2013. He said coaching the Patriots as a local isn’t easy.

“It’s harder to be a Bostonian and work for the Patriots than it is to be a New Yorker or a Californian because everyone and their brother knows my name and when guys [in the media] tear me apart in the media my mom feels bad,” DeGuglielmo said. “I know it’s part of the business, but mom feels bad. When it was the Jets killing me, my mom didn’t read it because she wasn’t opening up the [N.Y. Post]. She didn’t care.”

The 46-year-old didn’t even think about who he was replacing when he started with the Patriots, as Belichick wanted him to be himself, and no one else.

“Actually he wants me to be me,” said DeGuglielmo. “He wants me to coach the way I coach. He wants me to be who I am all he time because he is who he is. Everyone in our building is free to be who they are. The difference is they don’t parade me out [in front of the media] which I appreciate.”

With that being said, the transition didn’t go as smoothy as one would’ve hoped.

The Patriots started the season 2-2 and the offensive line wasn’t performing very well, as Brady was sacked nine times over the first four games and the offensive line was struggling to find a combination that worked. Even with the issues, he didn’t let that affect the transition and his first four games with his new team.

“It [was] more of a perceived heat,” he said. “As long as Bill [Belichick] was pleased with what I was doing I followed his message, we stayed on the track, we stayed on what we do and it worked out some games better than others, but it worked out fairly well.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo, Super Bowl XLIX
Ted Johnson on MFB: Patriots need more leadership, newer players ‘have to buy in right away’ 10.02.14 at 2:22 pm ET
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Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, now a sports radio host in Houston, checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss his former team’s rough start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Johnson agreed with many people’s assessment that the offensive line is the biggest issue on the team.

“That’s the main thing, is keep [Tom Brady] clean so that he has a clean pocket,” Johnson said. “For years, with Dante Scarnecchia there — that was a huge loss, too, you guys. Dante not only was the offensive line coach but I think he was the assistant head coach. He was very much a stabilizing force . . . in that locker room. Guys — not only offensive line but the entire team — had a lot of respect for him. Now he’s retired and he’s moved on, so that’s part of it, too.”

Brady is not playing like he has in past years, and Johnson suggested the increase in pressure could be a big reason why.

“I saw this, too, with Drew [Bledsoe],” Johnson said. “And I’m the biggest Drew Bledsoe fan in the world. Later in his career, guys, the more he got hit, the more he was like a cat on a hot tin roof back there. He was just throwing off his back foot and he could just feel what he thought was perceived pressure, and it wasn’t. So you really have to do a good job of keeping Tom upright to give you the best chance to win.”

That said, Johnson said Brady is far from finished.

“By no means. People want to say he’s done. Give me a break — Tom Brady? Are you kidding me? He’s still playing at a high level. He just needs more help,” Johnson said. “To put a bow on that, I just think the offensive line has to do a much better job. Again, he beats you with his brain, not the ability to scramble and make plays with his feet. That’s that.”

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Read More: Dante Scarnecchia, Drew Bledsoe, Ted Johnson, Tom Brady
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