By Tom E. Curran
TAMPA - The No. 1 concern through the Patriots two preseason games has been the offensive tackle spots.
While other missteps around the team can be chalked up to inexperienced players who won't be on the field, the bad plays of Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder have been magnified because they are A) in vital spots, B) playing poorly in protection and C) projecting as possible opening day starters.
Wednesday in Tampa, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia made it clear he wasn't having any of the talk about Solder being a disaster at left tackle.
Cutting off a question about Solder's struggles, Scarnecchia said, "I think Nate Solder's a better player today than he was all of last year. So you figure that out. Next question."
It's easy to appreciate Scarnecchia's interest in protecting his players. But the fact does remain that both are struggling with aspects of pass protection. Asked if he's seeing that through an expert's eyes, Scarnecchia went for context.
"I think all young tackles struggle on plays in protection in this league, ok? Just do a little thinking. Who did (recently retired) Matt Light replace? Bruce Armstrong (a Patriots Hall of Famer and perennial Pro Bowler). Did any of you think it would be easy? Did you think (Light) had any problems with it to start with? Well hell yeah, they all had problems. I mean, it is what it is."
"Personally, I'm really pleased with the way they're developing," Scarnecchia added. "Is it the finished product? No. And we got a couple more weeks to get it to as good as it can be and then we're gonna play. We're gonna play a game. Nate started for us at right tackle last year. Marcus played some and it is what it is. We''ll put our best players on the field and we expect nothing but their best."
Scarnecchia was also asked for news on Brian Waters, the reluctant guard.
"I only talk about players that are here," he flatly stated.