|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.”
|Newly-formed Patriots offensive line ‘gaining a familiarity’||09.08.14 at 9:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots offensive line without Logan Mankins did not get off to a good start.
According to Pro Football Focus, the offensive line surrendered 23 total pressures on 56 pass attempts, forcing quarterback Tom Brady to be under constant duress in Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Dolphins in Miami.
The Patriots started with an offensive line of Nate Solder at left tackle, Marcus Cannon at left guard, Dan Connolly at center, Jordan Devey at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle, but that was constantly changing as the team rotated all linemen who dressed for the game in and out.
Pro Football Focus also had Connolly, Cannon and Solder playing every offensive snap with Vollmer only missing one play. Devey saw significant time playing 64 snaps, followed by Ryan Wendell with 22. Rookie Cameron Fleming played more as a tight end on his four plays in the game.
“In this game we planned on playing all of our linemen, which we did,” Bill Belichick said in a conference call Monday. “We used Cam [Fleming] in some of our personnel groupings as a tight end and we used four guys to play the three positions inside. We felt like they all had played well, deserved to play, so that’s how we played them. I would say we didn’t really have a lot of communication issues. We just had some fundamental and technique — we had more fundamental and technique breakdowns than we did just bad — an assortment of mental errors. That was true defensively as well. I don’t think it was a game where there was a lot of missed assignments. It was more, I would say, a lack of execution of good fundamentals.”
It was the first regular season game for the group, as well as with new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. The grouping did not perform up to past standards as they allowed a total of four sacks. Solder, a three-year veteran, said Monday their struggles could have had something to do with the number of players rotating in and out without establishing any continuity.
“There might have been a little of that,” Solder said. “I think it’s just a matter of going through a lot of things together, gaining a familiarity. I think it will all work together if we continue to do the things we’re coached to do.”
|With Logan Mankins gone, what now for Patriots offensive line?||08.26.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In the space of 10 months, the Patriots have lost their longtime offensive line coach to retirement and their heart-and-soul offensive line captain to NFL economics.
The question now is, what will the Patriots do without Dante Scarnecchia and Logan Mankins? Part of that question has already been answered as new offensive line coach Dave Duglielmo has had a full spring and summer with the players he hopes will keep Tom Brady clean, healthy and upright all season.
But the second part of that equation is a big TBD.
“We have a lot of guys with a lot of good experience, like Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer and there’s a whole list of guys who know what they’re doing. We can definitely get by,” Solder said.
Obviously, the Patriots are looking for much more than just getting by when it comes to keeping No. 12 upright. They’re not looking for the next Pro Bowler per se, but rather someone who will give them consistent play from the left guard position that they’ve gotten for the past nine seasons from Mankins.
And while Connolly and Wendell could be options at left guard, there are other names to consider who could step in immediately. Jordan Devey, Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon. All three have played the interior line at some point in their time in New England, with Devey and Kline getting the most reps during games while Cannon has played primarily tackle, filling in at right tackle last season when Sebastian Vollmer went down with a season-ending broken leg.
Then, late in the season, against the Ravens in Baltimore, Belichick provided some possible foreshadowing of life without Mankins at left guard. With Solder out with a concussion, the team shifted Mankins to left tackle. It was the 24-year-old Kline who filled in for Mankins at left guard, making his first career NFL start.
Whoever gets the call at left guard, Solder is completely confident that he can help lead the new group into the 2014 season.
“A ton of confidence,” Solder said. “Those guys work so hard and they’re awesome people. I have a ton of confidence. That’s why they’re here. The way I kind of view leadership is to do my job the best that I can. If that influences people, I hope it does, but that’s kind of the role I see myself in.”
|Devin McCourty on Logan Mankins: ‘Don’t know if [you] get that type of teammate ever again’||at 6:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For those Patriots who played with Logan Mankins, Tuesday was harder than any offseason or training camp practice they’ve had this season.
After their first practice without the six-time Pro Bowl left guard, they came off the field and had to face the reality that the business side of the NFL and the Patriots had hit home. Mankins’ locker was in tact along with some team equipment but his teammates were left to answer questions about his sudden departure to Tampa Bay.
“He’s the type of guy you don’t know if get that type of teammate ever again,” safety Devin McCourty said. “He’s a tough guy. The different injuries he’s played through, being out there every snap, every chance he could get. When I got here, he wasn’t at here at first because he was home and he missed first couple of games. He came back and you could see the difference up front in how everybody played. He went to the Pro Bowl in a half-year. I think that just spoke volumes about a guy who you just see his leadership stand out as soon as he steps on the field.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s a guy you look up to, and I’m a defensive back and that’s watching the offensive line. Tampa is going to get one helluva player, and guy.”
McCourty the player then spoke like McCourty a team captain.
“There are some things you can’t control. You just accept,” he added. “It’s tough, it’s tough. You just tell yourself, and it starts the older guys on the team, you have to go out there and play. You can’t just sit there and sulk or be disappointed in your mind. You just have to go out there and play and make sure the younger and go about it and play and follow your lead. That’s the way I looked at today.
“This time of year is difficult. When we have 90 guys, whether it’s a guy like Travis Hawkins, in my room every day asking me a bunch of questions, working his tail off. Coach says it every year, this is a tough time for everybody. Coaches don’t like making these decisions. This one felt a little bit more because of the type of player Logan was and how long he’s been here.”
Mankins is gone to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Matthew Slater is another Patriots player who, like Mankins, has served as a captain before. He admitted that once the team was informed by Bill Belichick of the trade before practice Tuesday, it was tough going about business.
“It is difficult,” Slater said. “You know a guy for a number of years, you get to know his family, his kids, and that makes it tough. There is always a human element involved. We signed up to do a job here, and we understand what that job entails, and we understand what comes along with that, but at the same time, you can’t separate yourself from the human element, and the emotions and feelings that come along with it.
|First-half thoughts: Ryan Mallett beat up, Chris Jones (ankle) leaves injured||08.07.14 at 9:00 pm ET|
LANDOVER, Md. — Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the first half at FedEx Field, as the Redskins hold a 13-0 lead.
It was not a good start for Nate Solder and the offensive line, especially Solder. He committed a hold that wiped out a first down pass from Ryan Mallett. Then he got beat once for a sack and allowed another pass rush that got a big hit on Mallett.
Mallett was again up and down. He completed sharp passes to Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell. But he showed nervous feet in the pocket and rushed two throws for incompletions on third down. Mallett showed off his arm with eight seconds left when he let loose on a deep ball from his own 25. But it fell incomplete for Thompkins in double coverage. He finished the first half 5-of-12 for 55 yards.
Vince Wilfork played just the first series alongside Tommy Kelly and Chris Jones in a 3-4 look. He moved well but obviously the Patriots will monitor him closely as he gets back to full game conditioning. After Wilfork left, Joe Vellano, the man who filled in after Wilfork’s Achilles injury last year, got plenty of time over the ball. Will Smith, Zach Moore and Marcus Forston also saw significant time in the first half.
But the Patriots, who are already without the services of Sealver Siliga (left hand), lost Chris Jones with just over a minute left in the first half to an ankle injury. He had to be helped off the field and then walked very slowly to the Patriots locker room.
Rookie Roy Finch got a mulligan on a kickoff return when he ran up the middle and then sprinted to daylight on right sideline, only to lose the ball as he sped up and tried to juke his way past a defender. Washington recovered but Finch was saved by an Redskins offsides. Finch was back again and returned again and this time held on.
Both teams missed field goals in the first half, including Stephen Gostkowski, who had plenty of leg but dinged his 54-yarder halfway up the right upright midway through the second quarter.
|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.
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|Nate Solder, Matthew Slater hit the links in support of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation||06.30.14 at 1:25 pm ET|
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Being an NFL football player takes a tremendous toll on one’s body. The long, scorching hot days of training camp leading to the daily grind of a regular season is incredibly tough to handle, both physically and mentally.
The time between the end of mini camp and the start of training camp gives players one last month to catch their breath and rejuvenate their bodies one last time before the start of the new season, which for the Patriots begins with the first day of training camp on July 24.
Left tackle Nate Solder and special teams specialist Matthew Slater spent one of their last free Monday’s relaxing, joining a number of former professional athletes and local celebrities for a round of golf at the Pinehills Golf Club supporting the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.
“Just continuing to train and get my body in shape,” Slater said of what the next month will be like for him. “You try and do the best you can for your body to prepare for an NFL season and that is a strenuous process, but one you enjoy at the same time. Just doing the best we can as individuals and as a team to get ourselves ready for what lies ahead.
“It’s definitely an exciting time of the year. You work all year to get to this point being the start of a new season. We put a lot of work in and there is still a lot of work to be put in. We’re just excited about the 2014 season and what is in store for us.”
Monday’s event will raise funds and awareness in support of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps cancer patients and their families make critical mortgage, rent and utility payments during financially-challenging times and to help fund pediatric brain cancer research. Last year’s tournament raised a record $278,000.
“It’s great support and seeing what we’re about – that we are in the community, we’re apart of the community,” Andruzzi said of the support he gets from current Patriots players. “They are here playing for the Patriots, but they are also living in the community so we’re helping the people around them, people in this area and all throughout New England. For them to pay it forward and join forces with us is a great tribute to us.”
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