New England Patriots: Holding The Line

P9090275As New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley took the opening handoff from Tom Brady he had to be wondering if the Philadelphia Eagles actually knew they were allowed to have men on the line. The 62-yard run to start the night took most by surprise and it set the stage for the rest of the game as far as the Patriots were concerned.

The tone setter from the opening bell gave all viewers a sense of what the talk had been from those joint practices during the week where Eagles players used the term “Bully” to describe the seeds New England planted at the Eagles training camp. From the opening kick New England imposed their will physically , the talk going in was the concern toward the new group of pass catchers. By nights end the offensive line showed why having all five starters back brings a sense of continuity that should not be understated.

Between Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and newcomer LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots pounded the eagles into oblivion. With what was the seventh-best rushing attack last year in the league, New England showed why they are the most balanced team on offense in the league. Brady and the first unit played only 16 snaps and put up 14 points. I didn’t attend MIT, but that seems as if it’s a really good ratio.

Towering 6’9 left tackle Nate Solder is starting to round into the mid-first-round pick the Patriots made him back in 2011 out of Colorado. The book end on the other side 6’8 Sebastian Vollmer who is in his fifth year out of Houston by way of Kaarst, Germany and has been voted by his peers as an All Pro. Few teams in pro football can boost a tandem like this, they protect Brady and help solidify the running game.

The most notable name inside the tackles is Logan Mankins, the first of two Bulldogs on this line, the four-time All Pro is a cornerstone piece that protects the interior. A new name that football diehards will hear more of in the years ahead is Ryan Wendell. The former Fresno State center has earned his starting spot with New England the hard way — he earned it. Working his way through the practice squad and waivers for a few seasons he now has locked down the position for the forseeable future.

Then there is Dan Connolly who is best known for his 71 yard squib kick return that was almost returned for a touchdown. Connolly has battled the injury bug that past couple seasons but is a trusted right guard when healthy, and is a versatile athletic lineman.

danteThe Patriots boast a top-five offensive line which will serve them well on rare days when Brady might be off his game. Early indications this summer look as if the men up front just need to continue their solid play and New England will not skip a beat on offense. Last night, they produced to the tune of 31 carries for 248 yards for 8.0 yard-per-carry average. Now, that will not happen every weekl, but it’s a statement to those who think last season when they earned the seventh-best running offense in the league was a fluke.

What’s not a fluke is the why and who’s been most responsible for this consistent play over the course of the last 30 seasons. Dante Scarnecchia known to his players as “Scar” has been the longest tenured coach in Foxboro. His techniques have left it’s mark on all lineman that has made their way through 1 Patriot Place. Well respected and appreciated Scarnecchia has been the anchor holding the line for three decades, I’m sure those in charge hope Scar has another decade of teaching left in the tank.