Here’s an under-the-radar New England Patriots stat for you: Offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who’s been on the Patriots’ 53-man roster since Week 1, played exactly one offensive snap during the regular season.
Why should I care about how many snaps some random reserve lineman played, you might ask? Here’s why: Waddle’s extreme lack of playing time is proof of just how healthy, stable and improved New England’s offensive line has been since the team rehired longtime O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia last offseason.
Under former position coach Dave DeGuglielmo, a mix of injuries and unorthodox rotations resulted in the Patriots utilizing 39 different offensive line combinations during the 2015 season, the highest total in the NFL. This season, with Scarnecchia back at the helm and good health on their side, that number dropped to nine.
The starting five of left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon started 14 of New England’s 16 games, including each of the final 11. All played over 1,000 offensive snaps, with Andrews and Thuney finishing as the co-leaders with 1,114. Compare that to 2015, when the Patriots didn’t have a single O-lineman with more than 870 snaps.
Third tackle Cameron Fleming logged 284 snaps over the course of this season, rookie guard/center Ted Karras played 108, mostly in garbage time, and Waddle finished with just the aforementioned one. No other offensive lineman has been active for a Patriots game.
?They?ve done an incredible job,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters after Sunday’s 35-14 win over the Miami Dolphins. “I can?t say enough good things about what they have accomplished as individuals, as players, and collectively as a unit.”
While the ability of the Patriots’ linemen to stay off the injury report certainly has helped matters, this unit does not perform as well as it has if Scarnecchia is not running the show. Just listen to the high praise others in the Patriots’ organization have showered on the veteran coach.
?Dante is just the best coach, the best offensive line coach in the NFL,” Brady told reporters Sunday. “He does a great job with all of them.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drove that point home Monday during a conference call with reporters, using the word “tremendous” seven times when describing what his fellow Patriots assistant brings to the team.
“Dante is a tremendous, tremendous asset and a tremendous, tremendous coach,” McDaniels said. “He?s a great teacher. He builds tremendous continuity among the guys that play for him. He really does a great job of getting them to understand how to communicate with each other and work with one another because ultimately, five guys need to do a good job of working with one another to do their jobs on the offensive line, and he?s done a great job of that.
“He has them prepared and ready to practice each day so that they can make progress and improve, and then has them ultimately prepared and ready to play on game day which is again, that?s our one day a week that we have an opportunity to go out there and really perform. He?s been a tremendous mentor of mine, and he?s certainly made a huge difference and impact on our group up front and on our offense and on our team.”
“I don?t think his value can be understated. He?s tremendous and we love having him here and it?s our privilege to have a chance to work with him.”
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