Patriots O-line gets first look without Light, Mankins, Waters


Patriots O-line gets first look without Light, Mankins, Waters

FOXBORO -- The Patriots' offensive line is a work in progress.

They'll tell you that every position is always a work in progress. But realistically, without Matt Light, Logan Mankins, and Brian Waters, they have some holes to fill.

The first glimpse of how Bill Belichick will fill those holes was evident on Thursday night in the team's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.

The first offensive line that Belichick threw on the field consisted of Nate Solder at left tackle, Donald Thomas at left guard, Dan Koppen at center, Dan Connolly at right guard, and Marcus Cannon at right tackle.

It was a first possession that saw Brady get pressured, and even strip-sacked by Saints defensive end Will Smith at his own 40-yard line, to give the Saints the ball, and the eventual 3-0 lead on an ensuing field goal.

"We knew going into the game that they were just going to give us basic protection," said Smith afterwards. "So we just wanted to get a good rush, the four-man rush that we have been working on all camp. I got a good angle on him and got past them. It's always good to get a sack, especially against Brady. It helped our team score, so, we got points on the board."

Smith was knocked wide out of the pocket by Solder, but as Brady held the ball, Smith eventually got back into the play and hit Brady hard.

Solder said afterwards that he didn't remember the play specifically, but did admit that he needs to improve blocking Brady's back side.

"There's a lot of things that I felt more comfortable with," said Solder. "With that being said, there's a lot of things that I know I need to improve, because I've seen some of the good competition out there. I know that maybe I'm not to where I want to be yet."

In the Patriots' second possession, Belichick replaced Koppen with Ryan Wendell at center. He stayed with Wendell in that spot with the top unit for the rest of the game.

Belichick wouldn't go into specifics about any movement on the offensive line.

"We played a lot of people at every position," said Belichick afterwards. "So, I don't think there was any position that we didn't play a lot of people. That's what these games are for, to evaluate the players."

Smith's sack wasn't the only sign of pressure that the Saints put on the Patriots Thursday night. But still, he doesn't think New England's offensive line will look like it does now, when the regular season begins.

"It's still early," said Smith. "They're banged up. I don't think that's going to be their starting lineup come Week 1. But we know they're gonna be a good team and possibly a team we're gonna see later on down the road."

Breaking down Rob Gronkowski's wild music video

Breaking down Rob Gronkowski's wild music video

Rob Gronkowski plays the lead role in a music video that came out Wednesday. As could be expected, it’s funny and occasionally cringeworthy. Whatever. He’s the best tight end of all time. 

The video, which is for 3LAU’s “On My Mind,” sees Gronkowski have a bunch of fantasies while talking to a woman at the bar. Here’s a scene-by-scene breakdown. 

  • In a bar, Gronkowski has a drink with a woman. 
  • In Gronkowski’s fantasy, he is washing a car with the aforementioned girl and seven others. At one point, Gronkowski notices one of the girl’s butts and breaks the fourth wall to let the audience know that he thinks it’s one heck of a butt. The license plate of the car, registered in California, reads “GRONK.” 
  • Gronkowski briefly snaps out of it, but is soon in another fantasy in which he is the serving platter for sushi being consumed by the now dress-wearing women. The girls and a man who is also there feed the sushi to Gronkowski and one another. The fantasy gets awry when the seemingly nice man dumps a lot of soy sauce on Gronkowski. He gets it in his face and everything. 
  • Gronkowski awakens from his fantasies to see the woman throw a drink in his face as she storms out of the bar. As Gronkowski goes after the girl, he trips and falls back into a new fantasy, which is set in an indoor trampoline park. This is NOT the trampoline park owned by Ty Law. I looked it up. 
  • Now in the trampoline park, Gronkowski, the girls and a few fellas have a pillow fight which also features confetti. In a moment of pure bliss, Gronkowski falls on his back and daydreams -- making this a fantasy within a fantasy -- but is awoken by someone sweeping up the bar and hitting him in the face with a broom.  
  • Gronkowski gets up and walks out, capping what seemingly was just a night where a guy went to a bar by himself then passed out on the floor. 

In other Gronkowski news, he restructured his contract and returned to the practice field Tuesday. 

Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice


Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice

There's one where he makes a one-handed catch and celebrates with his arms outstretched as he glides into the end zone. There's another where he leaves his feet to go up and over safety Devin McCourty to come down with a pass. 

Judging by some of the pictures that have surfaced on of Rob Gronkowski participating in an OTA practice earlier this week, the All-Pro tight end seems to be feeling pretty good. 

Gronkowski, who agreed to an incentive-laden contract restructure for the upcoming season, is returning to action after undergoing season-ending back surgery last year so there was some question as to just how prepared he'd be to participate in practices this spring and summer. 

Again, judging by the photos, the answer is he's ready to ready to run routes on air and make contested catches against defenders.

Reporters will have an opportunity to watch the team practice on Thursday, the first workout open to members of the media, which will allow us to judge Gronkowski's mobility and his level of participation more fully.

Another takeaway from the photos on the team website is that Gronkowski was not required to wear a non-contact jersey during the session. Contact is not allowed during this phase of the offseason training program, but players returning from injury (and quarterbacks) will still wear red jerseys to inform their teammates they're not to be touched. For instance, Jonathan Freeny, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve about a month into last season, donned a red non-contact jersey in one image.