|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.”
|Report: Patriots exercise fifth-year option on left tackle Nate Solder||04.23.14 at 7:24 pm ET|
The Patriots exercised the fifth-year option on left tackle Nate Solder on Wednesday, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports.
The option is worth the average value of the third through the 25th-highest cap numbers for offensive linemen in 2014. According to our friend Miguel Benzan of Patscap.com, that would put Solder’s option at about $7.3 million for the 2015 season. Considering the market for free agent left tackles this offseason (five free agent tackles received guaranteed deals in excess of $10 million) and Solder’s level of play since he arrived in the league three years ago, it seems like a sound financial move for New England.
Teams have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option on the first-round picks of the 2011 draft class, and Solder is one of several members of the class to have their option already picked up — it’s a group that includes Houston’s J.J. Watt, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson and San Diego’s Corey Liuget.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|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.”
|What does history tell us about Patriots and pre-draft contact with elite prospects?||04.16.14 at 3:14 pm ET|
With the pre-draft process longer now than it’s been in years past, there’s more time for speculation, and official visits, workouts and attendance at Pro Days are all ways fans and the media try and gauge a team’s interest in a prospect. Some of the pre-draft work can be a smokescreen, some of it can be done for intel down the road and some of can be for practical scouting purposes. With that in mind, here’s a look at the pre-draft connections the Patriots have made with some of their top draft picks over the last few years.
Linebacker Jamie Collins (taken with New England’s first pick in 2013, a second-round selection at No. 52 overall): Bill Belichick flew South to work out Collins before the draft, but the linebacker later indicated that he did not have much pre-draft contact with New England when compared to other teams.
Defensive end Chandler Jones (first-round pick 2012, 21st overall): Jones recalled a conversation with the Patriots at the combine in Indy the year he was drafted. “I talked to the Patriots — I talked with them at the combine,” he said. “That was the most formal thing we did. That’s basically it — we talked at the combine.”
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (first-round pick 2012, 25th overall): He didn’t work out for Patriots, but he said he “had a small (idea)” the Patriots were interested. “I met with those guys at the combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days,” Hightower recalled, “so I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.”
Tackle Nate Solder (first-round pick 2011, 17th overall): Solder had what he called “fairly limited contact” with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process. He met with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the Monday before the draft in Colorado, but also had a scheduled visit to Foxboro cancelled at the last minute. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Solder later explained. “I was scheduled to visit (but) the minute before I left it was cancelled. That’s all I know.”
Defensive back Devin McCourty (first-round pick 2010, 27th overall): McCourty met with Belichick prior to the draft, where the two had a film session on campus at Rutgers. “Bill Belichick had come to my school for a coaches’ clinic, and he was going to fly right out after the clinic to see his son play in a lacrosse game,” McCourty recalled. “But we had an hour, we watched some film and we spoke for a little while. We had a real generic conversation, but he showed me some things on film, just watching and helping me out as far as being a player.”
Linebacker Jerod Mayo (first-round pick, 2008, 10th overall): Mayo had 11 visits with teams during the pre-draft process, and remembers his visit to Foxboro fondly. “I had a great visit when I came down there,” he said. “The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked.”
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Offensive line||02.03.14 at 1:46 pm ET|
With the Patriots done for the year, we’ve got an end of the year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks. Now, it’s the offensive line.
Depth chart: T Nate Solder, G/C Dan Connolly, G/T Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, T/G Marcus Cannon, T Sebastian Vollmer, G Josh Kline, G/T Will Svitek, G Chris Barker, OT Markus Zusevics. (C/G Braxton Cave, T Jordan Devey and OL R.J. Mattes are all practice squadders.)
Overview: It was an up-and-down season for the New England offensive line. On many occasions, the group was able to do an excellent job buying time for quarterback Tom Brady to deliver the ball, as well as create sizable holes for backs like LeGarrette Blount to run through over the course of the season. However, there were times — and part of this was due in part to breakdowns in other areas, as well as injury — that the line struggled to hold up. Over the course of the season, the Patriots faced some of the best defensive front sevens in the league, and while they were frequently up to the challenge, there were times where they had issues, particularly in pass protection. Some of that can be blamed on the fact that, as a group, the offense was still searching for an identity and struggling with the acclimation of so many new faces. But don’t tell that to the offensive line, a group that continued to hold itself to an almost impossibly high standard regardless of the opponent and situation.
As a group, it was clear that health was an occasional issue. Vollmer had a leg injury that limited him to eight games, while Solder missed a game because of a head injury. As a result, the Patriots had to rely on versatility and depth to get them through some of the toughest points of the season. After Solder went down late in the loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Kline stepped in at left guard and Mankins played left tackle. The same combo faced the Ravens the following week, and held up impressively in the face of the stern Baltimore pass rush.
In the end, much of the mental toughness that eventually became the calling card of the 2013 Patriots came from the offensive line, and, by extension, Mankins. Now the second most senior member of the roster in terms of time in a New England uniform (he was drafted in 2005, and while there have been guys who have been in the league longer — Andre Carter, Isaac Sopoaga — only Brady has been with the Patriots longer than Mankins), he’s the leader of the line, and one of the premier leaders in the locker room. After nine years in the league, Mankins — who was named a second-team All-Pro for the fifth time in his career in 2013 — continues to set the standard.
Going forward, this group will be interesting to watch. The Patriots have a decision to make on pending free agents Wendell and Svitek, and Vollmer faces a return from a leg injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season. And then, there’s the question of how the group will react to the retirement of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who leaves the franchise after 30-plus seasons. Stability, consistency and continuity have always been the watchwords of the New England offensive line, and as it enters a new era without Scarnecchia, the transition to new coach Dave DeGuglielmo will be something to watch in 2014.
Best moment: It’s shortsighted to measure an offensive line purely on sacks alone, but their work against the Falcons was pretty impressive — Brady wasn’t sacked in a September win in Atlanta. (The only game all season he wasn’t sacked.) The stretch drive the group was able to put together over the final three regular season games and the first playoff game, clearing the way for Blount to carry the offense on his back, particularly against the Bills, Ravens and Colts.
Worst moment: Probably the singular worst series for the New England offensive line was coming out of the half for the start of the third quarter against the Jets on Oct. 20: the first six offensive plays for the Patriots went as follows: sack/interception/four-gain gain/five-yard gain/no gain/sack. It’s tough to lay all that at the feet of the New England offensive line, but by Mankins’ own admission, it starts up front, and the line wasn’t able to get the job done. By the end of the quarter, a 21-10 lead turned into a 27-21 deficit, and ended up in an overtime loss. For more from Mankins on that breakdown, click here.
By the numbers: 1,218. The number of snaps played by Wendell this season, tied with Brady for most on the team.
Money quote: “I’ve coached a lot of tough guys. I don’t think there’s any that I would put ahead of him. Maybe some on that level, but none ahead. Anytime Logan needs help getting off the field, you feel like it’s something serious. Usually he ends up just staying out there, but for him to need assistance getting off the field was definitely a concerning moment. Then when [head athletic trainer] Jim Whelan came back and told me, as you mentioned, after the next series that Logan was back, I was a little bit surprised to hear that. He’s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally tough.” — Bill Belichick on Logan Mankins
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