McDaniels excited to be back in New England


McDaniels excited to be back in New England

FOXBORO -- Josh McDaniels sprinted ahead of his players from one offensive drill to the next like a border collie excitedly leading its owners to the front door for a walk.

Even from afar, it was clear that McDaniels was happy to be back in New England, running the Patriots offense at training camp.

"You're so excited to be out here because you're with the guys and it's a new season and, training camp, you've worked a lot of days to get ready for this day," McDaniels said.

"You come out and you make some exciting plays. You make a lot of mistakes that you have to correct, but that's the fun part. We get to go in now and watch the film with the players and correct some of the things we didn't do well today. Hopefully we'll have a better day tomorrow, but it was good to be back out here."

McDaniels was last in charge of New England's offense in 2008. After leading Matt Cassel to an 11-5 record, he was rewarded with a chance to be the head coach of the Broncos at the tender age of 32. It's been almost four years since he's been back -- he went through two disappointing seasons in Denver and a one-year stint as offensive coordinator in St. Louis since then -- and now he's trying to rebuild the bonds he had among Patriots players before he left.

"Every year you reestablish all those connections, with the position group that you coach or the offense, if you're the coordinator," McDaniels said. "You work hard to try to recreate those relationships. Each one of those relationships probably grows and matures each year, and I think that's where Tom Brady and I are. But we'll always try to get better and communicate better as we go forward through camp."

Brady's a familiar face. So is Wes Welker. And of course there's his boss, Bill Belichick. But there are a lot of new players McDaniels hasn't coached before that he's trying to get to know better. He was with the team as they prepared for the Super Bowl last year, but back then the offense was still Bill O'Brien's.

Now that McDaniels is in charge, he's learning more and more about his personnel.

"The tight ends are different, the backs are a little younger," McDaniels said. "Things have changed. There's a few different coaches on our staff. But I think that happens to every team every year in the NFL. We just adapt."

He elaborated on his two game-changing tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, a little more.

"Based on seeing them before I got here, you knew how they caught the football," he said. "Not being in the meeting room with them until this year, you realize how intelligent they are and the things they can pick up and how well coached they've been, and how easy to coach the are. They listen well. They take good notes in the meeting room. It's extremely important to both of them. They both love football and I don't know that you wouldnecessarily know that unless you were here. Having the opportunity to know them this spring and now more in training camp, I think that's what I appreciate about them."

After one day it seems like McDaniels appreciates everything about his new, yet familiar, situation.

"This is home for me," he said, "and it feels great to be back."

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”