FOXBORO — Dante Scarnecchia hasn’t watched any of the Patriots’ padded practices in person.
But the offensive line guru has certainly read about all the struggles the team, and its former O-line in particular, has had in adapting to the new outcourt running pattern, which is now associated with a game bootleg and play-action password.
His reaction ?
Relax. It’s not the time to panic yet.
Scarnecchia thinks Bill Belichick will know after joint practices with the Panthers and Raiders and the team’s three preseason games if the plan is a worthwhile pursuit or if the Pats should just keep it in their back pocket.
“I would say this, in fairness to everyone, I just think it’s not the right time to rate him. The pads are on, but they’re not playing real football yet,” Scarnecchia told the Herald on Monday, before the offense looked like a train wreck again. “Every time they play the Giants, we’ll have a better idea of where this thing is. Even at this point, it is not entirely fair to say that they cannot (do it).
“I think there is a (three game) process at hand, where we will have a better idea of where this thing is going. … What doesn’t look good at the start of training camp doesn’t affect anything.
Scarnecchia would know, having won five Super Bowls and coached the Patriots offensive line for 18 years under Belichick. But what if the offense still looks awkward at the end of the month?
In Scar’s opinion, Belichick will scrap it. Others who played for Belichick — former linebacker Ted Johnson for one — disagree, believing the head coach will stubbornly stick to the new path. Scarnecchia, however, was firm in her grip.
“Bill was never one to say, ‘We’re going to make this work no matter what it looks like,'” he said. said several times: ‘we’re moving on’.
Scarnecchia continued, “But in the meantime, you can’t put your toe in the water and say this is what it’s going to be. You just have to take the leap, trust the techniques and trust the guys involved.
“They’re pretty good up front, and I’m sure they’re pretty good at the short end, and everything. You can run behind Trent Brown or Isaiah Wynn.
As for the idea that the Patriots never switched to a Kyle Shanahan-type scheme because former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Scar and former running backs Ivan Fears vetoed it, the former coach of the line O unequivocally denied it.
“I can tell you without a doubt that we led the game from the outside zone,” Scarnecchia said. “What we haven’t leaked from that action is the bootlegs of that, that’s what you see from San Francisco, the Rams, all those teams where that came from. And why didn’t we do that?
The answer is that Tom Brady, great as he was, was not adept at deploying and managing the bootlegs the Patriots are now trying to integrate.
Scarnecchia, McDaniels and Fears didn’t have to quell the idea. They didn’t have to sway Belichick to stop him in his tracks. It was obvious that this would not work with the personnel involved.
According to the Legendary Wizard, they actually tried during Brady’s time, even though it didn’t seem like the best option for the GOAT. They practiced startup actions and performed a few of them in games. But when Brady was stripped of the ball the first time they tried it, that was pretty much the end of it.
In other words, no pushback was necessary.
Still, the Patriots used the outside zone occasionally, thanks to an excellent tight block from Rob Gronkowski. It wasn’t a staple of the attack, but it was definitely in their bag of tricks.
“I would say we were as good a team at running the outside area to the open side, the untight side, as anyone in football,” Scarnecchia said. “And we were good at getting him to the tight side when we had an end tight enough to block him – Rob Gronkowski. So we ran it.
“We missed a lot of two-man sets with Sony Michel (in 2018). … We ran randomly, we ran outside the zone, we ran the gap inside, everything we thought we could do, we did.
And that, Scarnecchia suspects, will be the approach in 2022. They’ll go with what works.
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Scarnecchia, who said he’s a fan of the outside zone, added that when he came out of retirement to coach the offensive line in 2016, many hours of training camp were invested in teaching the program, without no start action.
That’s not to say they didn’t struggle, but they eventually figured out the best ways to incorporate outdoor runs.
“I can only speak for myself, but I never said we couldn’t make it work,” he said. “There were times when if you looked at the tight ends you’d say we’re really not going to have much success with this blocking guy, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t directed the outside zone to the weak side, where the tackle was the guy doing the heavy lifting.
“We’ve run this game for years as well as anyone has run it.”
Then the question becomes whether or not Mac Jones is a good fit for these soulful forgeries. Scarnecchia was sure the second-year quarterback was more than capable of accomplishing the mission.
“He did it in college, and I think he has a skill set,” Scarnecchia said. “Let me put it this way, does he have the same athletic and speed skills as (Rams quarterback) Matthew Stafford?”
As prospects, Stafford ran a 4.81 in the 40-yard dash, while Jones ran a 4.72. So for Scar, the answer is yes.
“I guess Mac Jones is faster than Tom Brady. I’m not saying more athletic, because I think Tom is a fabulous athlete. But I’m sure they go there thinking he can do those things,” did he declare. “You bootleg, you go out, you throw the ball and you try to throw it fast.”
Scarnecchia actually caught Jets practice in the stadium the other night – he’s in New York to visit his son – and saw Joe Flacco basically being asked to run the same type of plays as Zach Wilson with the startup actions.
“Foul ball, roll, throw the ball,” Scarnecchia said. “It’s not that difficult.”
Now on to Matt Patricia, who is the offensive line coach in name, and appears to be the de facto offensive coordinator. Is it possible for Patricia to do both tasks and be effective?
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Scarnecchia suspects that if Patricia is in fact the player, which it looks like, assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates will be manning the O line during games. He just isn’t sure.
“I really don’t know how this is all going to work. I think it’s a heavy load, but Matt is a guy who’s used to having heavy loads on Sundays,” Scar said. “I think the sticking point for me, personally, is being able to know enough to set things up in the passing game. , whether in down and distance situations or full passes.
“I think that’s a heavy load to ask someone. I’m not going to refute that and say it’s not. But there are guys who are very, very capable and have a spirit so strong that they can take on things like that.. We can all pass that judgment on Matt right now, but we don’t know. He was a coordinator. So he knows what it takes.
Ultimately, in Scar’s opinion, if Belichick entrusts Patricia, he thinks he can do the job. That said, when told that several members of the media hoped he would return to set the offensive line — even if it was just to consult or assess — Scar differed, saying once again that there is would have more “clarity” with the state of the offence. in the next three weeks, taking into account all upcoming joint training and matches.
Either way, Scarnecchia likes to see the Patriots trying to evolve and trying to adapt an offense that could be more successful. With the success of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan in recent years, many teams are going down the copycat route.
“It’s an imitative league, and people look at teams that have had success, but you really have to be yourself too,” Scarnecchia said. “The last time we won the Super Bowl, we were a two-back team. Who’s still running two backs? So what do they have left?
“Outside the areas or crack sweeps. And if you go inside you can maybe punch and explode and do things like that if your tight ends can do the heavy lifting. So that’s what you have. There’s nothing else. So that said, you can run outside the zones, you can run inside the zones and gap runs.
“They will do what they think their staff are best suited to do. I can’t wait to see how it goes. Of course I would like them to succeed.”
And in New England, he is not the only one in this case.