Curran: Sanchez should air it out vs. Patriots


Curran: Sanchez should air it out vs. Patriots

You'd think that with the Jets coming to town, the Patriots secondary could breathe a sigh of relief.

After all, Mark Sanchez isn't exactly Joe Namath. And Tim Tebow, well, he's Tim Tebow.

But then you see Russell Wilson go off on New England, and consider the Patriots injuries now.

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran says why not throw it?

"You look at what happened yesterday, the back end of the Patriots defense, there's no guarantees we're going to see Patrick Chung with the shoulder come back; Steve Gregory has missed two weeks. So the back end of the secondary is in a little disarray," Curran said.

Jets running back Shonn Green looked good last game, but that shouldn't be the focal point of New York's offense come Sunday.

"Go ahead and roll Mark Sanchez out and take your shots down the field," Curran said. "I think that even though they had reduced attempts yesterday relative to what they normally would, if he doesn't throw 30 passes, somebody needs to lose a job not me."

McDaniels on Pats QBs: 'There's no [learning] curve for any of them'


McDaniels on Pats QBs: 'There's no [learning] curve for any of them'

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels lumped all Patriots quarterbacks together when asked to discuss Jimmy Garoppolo’s readiness to be the New England starter during Tom Brady’s suspension.  

“There’s no curve for any one of them,” said McDaniels Monday during an open-access period with the team’s assistant coaches. “They’re learning the same material, they’re going over the same stuff. Our expectation is, if you’re in the quarterback room, you’re learning what the quarterbacks need to know to play well in this offense. The expectations are high in that room and every other room.”

Asked if, entering his third season, Garoppolo was at a decent level of competency, McDaniels replied, “Year one is such a hard year for any rookie because it seems like you’re never caught up. You’re always learning something. Year two, you feel like you’ve got a foundation, a starting point but you’re still trying to gain on everybody else. Year three, if the players continue to work and do their job in the offseason when they’re not here, you hope that they close that gap and they can go out there and play fast and not think much. It’s too early to say that about any third-year guy at the moment because we haven’t done anything that would give us a gauge on that but I’m excited for all those guys that are in their third year.”

Scarnecchia: We drafted Thuney to play inside


Scarnecchia: We drafted Thuney to play inside

FOXBORO -- Two years of retirement didn't do anything to impact Dante Scarnecchia's candor.

When meeting with reporters on Monday at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots offensive line coach's first such meeting since he called it a career after the 2013 season, Scarnecchia was as honest as ever. 

One of the topics he addressed was where exactly Patriots third-round draft pick Joe Thuney, a versatile offensive lineman from North Carolina State, would fit as a pro. 

As opposed to dancing around the question, insisting that he'd have to work with the player before giving his opinion, Scarnecchia got right down to it. 

"Hey, look," he said, "we drafted him to play inside, and also knowing that in a pinch he could help us outside. He's going to be an inside player unless disaster hits and then he's going to be an outside player. We've done it with others. He's just going to be another in the line."

After he was drafted, Thuney said himself that he doesn't have the length typically required to play tackle at the NFL level. He understands that at 6-foot-5, 304 pounds, his 32-inch arm length could be an issue if asked to play on the outside. 

While Scarnecchia sees Thuney as a guard or center, he pointed out that length isn't the be-all end-all for a potential tackle. 

"I think to a degree, obviously, length is important," Scarnecchia said. "But really when you think about it, his arms are 32 [inches] and a little bit. Matt Light's arms were 33 [inches]. If your arms, every time you pass block, if your arms are [inside], what difference does it make how long your arms are? If your arms are [extended], that's a difference.

"If you play the game like a tyrannosaurus rex, you're not going to have a whole lot of success in pass protection. But if you're something different than that, if you use what you've got, then you have a chance. Logan Mankins played tackle for us. Started in two games at tackle. I don't know what his length is, but I know he knows how to use his hands. I think that's the whole discussion on all that.

"Everybody says well, 'This guy's got 36 inch arms!' Yeah but if he doesn't use them what difference does it make. I think that's really important."

Thuney may not have the prototypical length to play as a full-time tackle, but Scarnecchia and the Patriots liked enough about his other physical characteristics and his intelligence to take him with the No. 78 overall selection over the weekend. 

"I think he's really a tremendous athlete," Scarnecchia said. "I think he's a really smart kid. He has a really good playing style. He's a good person. He was gonna be [NC State's] center. Started at guard. Started at left tackle. All in a great conference. He's got good size. Really good measurables. We feel like he's got the traits that we covet for people that come in here."

Thuney will be one of several interior offensive linemen competing for a role this spring and summer.

The Patriots used three guards -- Josh Kline, Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason -- last year in a rotation, all of whom will return. The team also picked up guard Jonathan Cooper when it traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals. Both Bryan Stork and David Andrews are considered interior offensive linemen, though their primary position is at center. And the Patriots drafted another interior player this year, a sixth-rounder from Illinois, Ted Karras.

It's a crowded group without even factoring in the tackles -- Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming -- that will have a presence in the offensive line meeting room during training camp. 

"The more the merrier," Scarnecchia said. "I think that will only help us."

Patriots draft revealed plenty about how they view themselves


Patriots draft revealed plenty about how they view themselves

A tight-lipped team like the Patriots won’t tell you where their needs and trouble-spots are. That’s why we all hedge predictions with our draft forecasting. We may think we know, but until a selection is made confirming suspicions, we can’t be sure.

The team imported 18 players this weekend – nine draft picks and nine reported undrafted free agents. What did we learn?

The Patriots weren’t as concerned about finding a running back as I expected. They only brought in one, Arizona State’s D.J. Foster, an undrafted free agent. He’s a pass-catching back – 5-10, 193 pounds – who caught 63, 62 and 59 passes and has the ability to split out wide. That indicates a belief LeGarrette Blount will be good to go as the beef-back in September and that Donald Brown, Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney will provide depth behind him. The addition of Foster should have James White looking over his shoulder.

The team didn’t see the fit or the urgency to address the tackle position with a bona-fide tackle. Third-round pick Joe Thuney could turn into one at this level but even he described himself as an interior lineman on his conference call with New England media. Starters Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and backup LaAdrian Waddle are tackles and tackles only. Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming and Thuney are guys who can play tackle plus a few other spots. How well Waddle, Cannon, Thuney and Fleming perform this year under Dante Scarnecchia will likely determine whether the Patriots use an early pick in 2017 on a tackle. Cannon in particular is on notice with the addition of Thuney.

The Patriots aren’t going to roll the dice at backup quarterback. By taking NC State’s impressive Jacoby Brissett this season, the team’s preparing for life after Jimmy G. With Tom Brady’s suspension back on, Garoppolo is obviously the odds-on starter. The team has months to decide whether it wants to add a veteran behind Garoppolo or let Brissett do it. That’s a call that may not be made until August when cutdowns come and capable veterans are turned out. But having Brissett aboard now means he gets a season of seasoning before next spring when the team will likely try to move Garoppolo and get picks in return and make Brissett the backup to Brady, whose contract runs through 2019.

Tight end is never far from the team’s mind. It wasn’t a great tight end class at the top, so the Patriots didn’t burn a pick there. But they did pick up Vanderbilt’s Steven Scheu (pronounced “SHOY”), who caught 56 passes over his final two years with the Commodores and is – at 6-4, 253 – more of a blocking/in-line tight end. They also grabbed De’Runnya Wilson, a 6-5, 224-pound former basketball player who may turn into a red-zone weapon with his ball skills. Verrrrry raw but the kid played really well in big games. With Martellus Bennett in a contract year and last year’s tight end add A.J. Derby failing to make any impression on the field because of rookie year injuries, Scheu and Wilson will be interesting to track.

The Patriots liked the programs this year at Ole Miss (two undrafted guys – DT Woodrow Hamilton, and LB C.J. Johnson), Illinois (sixth-round guard Ted Karras and undrafted corner Ve’Angelo Bentley), Arizona State (seventh-round wideout Devin Lucien and the undrafted running back Foster) and NC State (third-rounders Brissett and Thuney).

Finally, if you’d like your son to have a shot to play with the Patriots, put him on the cornerback track and hope he runs sub-4.6. Between third-rounder Cyrus Jones and four undrafted guys (Bentley, Texas A&M’s Devante Burns, Auburn’s Jonathan Jones and Florida Atlantic’s Cre’Von LeBlanc), the team keeps bringing cover guys into the program knowing that – every once in a while, they strike platinum as they did with Malcolm Butler. And even if they don’t hit on those guys and either have to move on from them or put them on practice squad, the cornerback need is always great and these players will have been worked with by the staff and gone through a Patriots orientation of sorts so that – down the line – their phones may ring again with a 508 area code on the other end.