TAMPA – Some Patriots fans might be in a tizzy over the state of the offensive line after two lackluster exhibition games, but the man in charge of that unit is rolling as easy as the tides in Old Tampa Bay.
“There’s no cliff I’m throwing myself off right now. I’m telling you the truth,” said Dante Scarnecchia, who is in his 14th season in charge of the line as assistant head coach. “Believe it or not, that glass is half full and filling up. That’s just how I see it. With every position, all I ask is the best. They’re giving it to us, and we’ll improve.”
Much of the concern has resided with the Patriots’ two young tackles, left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
“Personally, I’m pleased with the way those kids are developing—I’m really pleased with the way they’re developing,” Scarnecchia said. “Is it the finished product? No and we have a couple weeks to get it to as good as it can be, and then we’re going to play a game. (Solder) started for us at right tackle last year, Marcus played some. It is what it is. So whoever goes out there, we’re going to put our best players out on the field and we expected nothing but their best.”
The fact is, both have struggled at times. The duo combined to allow 14 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hurries and knockdowns combined) in the first half of Monday night’s loss to the Eagles. They each allowed seven each despite a gameplan laden with screen passes and draws.
Solder allowed four hurries and three knockdowns. In the opener against the Saints, Solder gave up three hurries for 10 total quarterback pressures through three games. In more than 1,000 snaps last season at right tackle, Solder allowed a total of 34 ½ pressures.
“I think Nate Solder is better today than he was all of last year, so you figure that out,” Scarnecchia said. “Next question.”
Solder is replacing the retired at Matt Light at left tackle. Scarnecchia reminded everyone Light wasn’t exactly a Pro Bowler when he attempted to replace Bruce Armstrong in 2001.
“Did anybody think that it was going to be (smooth)? OK. Did you think he had any problems with it to start with? Well hell yeah they all had problems,” Scarnecchia said. “It was as painful as it could ever be, you know? Just like anything, (Light) got better and became a really good player, quote ‘One that you can’t replace.’ No one can be replaced, but we’ve got some really good candidates.”
Cannon, who is holding Sebastian Vollmer’s spot until he’s ready, has allowed 13 total pressures, including a sack, three hurries and two knockdowns against the Eagles.
Scarnecchia wouldn’t comment on the status of guard Brian Waters, but he has seen left guard Logan Mankins (ACL surgery) and Vollmer (back surgery) return in the past week.
“The most important thing is, I think for their own self comfort, to be able to get out, test themselves, see how everything is working, how the mending process is going,” Scarnecchia said. “So it’s only a good thing.”
No fun in the sun
Tom Brady made it clear the Patriots aren’t on Florida’s Gulf Coast to see the beautiful beaches: this is a work trip, not a leisure one.
“We came down here to get better as a football team,” Brady said. “I don’t think it’s a vacation; this is for us to come here and be a better football team when we leave. There are no activities planned.
“We have work to do this afternoon and tonight. We’re going to wake up tomorrow and come to practice and then work tomorrow night and get ready to play the game.”
Underwood moved on
Former Patriots receiver Tiquan Underwood is now with his former college coach, Greg Schiano, as a member of the Bucs.
Underwood became a national story when he was released by the Patriots a day before Super Bowl XLVI so the team could promote Alex Silvestro off the practice squad.
But Underwood isn’t bitter, and he found a way to use the move as motivation.
“Coach [Bill Belichick] handles his depth chart decisions on Saturday, the day before the game, whether it’s Week 1, Week 5, the playoffs, and I just happened to be one of the latter guys on the depth chart and they brought up Alex and I got released,” he said.
“It’s business, I understand that, and now I’m trying to put myself in a better position so when those decisions are made, I’m not one of the guys that can be released. I want to be one of the guys on the front part of the roster.”
Love gets extension
The Patriots and defensive tackle Kyle Love have agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2013, agent Sean Stellato confirmed. The new deal has a maximum value of $3.1 million, with a $500,000 signing bonus. He will still play this season for $540,000, the amount of the exclusive-rights free agent tender he signed earlier this year. “We appreciate the Patriots stepping up to make commitment to Kyle at a time when they didn’t have to,” said Stellato. Love was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2010, and showed great improvement last year alongside Vince Wilfork at tackle . . . The Patriots had six players return to practice. In addition to Vollmer and tight end Daniel Fells, who were removed from the physically unable to perform list over the weekend, rookies Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard, safety James Ihedigbo, and fullback Spencer Larsen all were back. However, Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Jabar Gaffney (right quad), as well as Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Matt Kopa and Gerard Warren, were missing.