5:00 AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Recently retired offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer was in the middle of sharing thoughts on each of the Patriots’ starting offensive linemen when he abruptly stopped. His message was simple: The discussion should have started with Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
Vollmer lived it for eight seasons as a Patriot. Now he’s sharing his perspective as he considers transitioning into a possible media career.
“One of the greatest who ever coached,” Vollmer said of Scarnecchia, who is affectionately referred to as “Scar” in New England. “I don’t want to take any credit away from the players, but you really have to credit the coaching job they do. You take a Joe Schmo like me and make him a serviceable player; they do this over and over again, and it’s amazing to watch.”
Dante Scarnecchia is in his second season back as Patriots offensive line coach after coming out of retirement. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
As the Patriots prepare for the start of training camp this week — rookies report Monday, veterans arrive Wednesday and the first practice is Thursday — Vollmer’s words highlight the importance of Scarnecchia’s return for a second season after having spent 2014 and 2015 in retirement.
Scarnecchia, 69, oversaw an offensive line last season that had all five starters play over 90 percent of the snaps. His return specifically seemed to bring out the best in right tackle Marcus Cannon, and the way Vollmer sees it, Scarnecchia’s decision to end the practice of rotating personnel was one of the unsung coaching moves from last year.
“To me, that’s really the key,” Vollmer said. “The five guys that played, they didn’t rotate and luckily they stayed together.”
Meanwhile, how much longer Scarnecchia stays with the Patriots beyond 2017 is unknown. Highly regarded understudy Cole Popovich is learning by his side for a second straight season, which is a dynamic in which Scarnecchia could be developing not just offensive linemen but also his eventual successor.
2. Insight from Vollmer, who was with the Patriots from 2009-2016, on each of the team’s five starting offensive linemen:
Left tackle Nate Solder: “He is one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever seen. A guy that big [6-foot-8, 325 pound] shouldn’t be able to move as well as he does. He came in my third year, and I remember watching him get drafted — we were at Vince Wilfork‘s charity event — and all the cameras turned toward me and asked, ‘Is he going to take your spot?’ The way he carried himself from a rookie to now, I view him as one of the best left tackles in the league. Seeing him grow as a man, a husband, a father, I think a lot of people can learn a lot from him.”
Left guard Joe Thuney: “How many rookies come in and from Day 1 do what he did [start every game and play 1,114 of 1,118 snaps]? You have to prove yourself somehow and be better than a veteran who has done that before. He stepped in. I think it also helps having a good center next to him, who knows the system. Nate, I’m sure, also helped him quite a bit on the other side. But still, you can have Logan Mankins next to you and if you’re not a good player, you’re still not going to be worth anything. It’s a tribute to him. He’s like one of those old-school guys. You don’t want to compare