FOXBORO, Mass. — It can be difficult to get a straight answer out of some New England Patriots coaches. Not Dante Scarnecchia.,
The veteran offensive line coach spoke with reporters Friday at Gillette Stadium and was forthcoming about the current state of his position group, most notably revealing that at least four O-linemen will miss organized team activities and minicamp with injuries.
That list includes starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, who missed the second half of last season with an ankle injury, and left tackle hopefuls Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown.
Wynn, the Patriots’ top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (23rd overall), played through a shoulder injury during his senior season at Georgia and underwent surgery earlier this year. Brown, whom the Patriots acquired from the San Francisco 49ers during the draft, also is recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the final six games of last season.
Starting left guard Joe Thuney also will miss OTAs and minicamp after undergoing foot surgery, which first was reportedly by ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss earlier this week. All four linemen are expected to be healthy in time for training camp in late July.
“I’m going to just make this really clear, OK?” Scarnecchia said. “I really like the guys we have here right now. I mean, I really like the guys we have here right now. That’s the good news. The bad news is we can’t work with some of them until training camp starts, because we’ve got two guys with shoulder (injuries), we’ve got a guy with a bad foot, and on and on and on.
“But that’s the hand we’ve been dealt. When training camp comes around, they’re all going to be out there, and I’m really excited about working with these guys. I want to make that really clear to everybody. We got the guys we got, and I’m happy with it. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’m really happy with it because I like the way they work, I like the people, I think that they’re going to do everything we ask them to do, and that’s all I care about. And then, we’ll see what we can do from there. So we’ll find out.”
One of the Patriots’ biggest question marks this summer is at left tackle following the departure of longtime starter Nate Solder. Scarnecchia indicated Wynn — who played both left tackle and guard in college — and Brown — who primarily played on the right side in San Francisco — currently are the leading candidates to replace Solder.
Wynn is smaller than the prototypical left tackle at 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, but he excelled at the position last season, allowing just five total pressures for a Georgia team that lost in the national championship game.
“He was a really good player in the best conference in America at his position,” Scarnecchia said. “He’s played left tackle, and he’s played guard, so that’s what I like about him. He’s smart. He’s tough as they come. Played the whole year with a bad shoulder. He’s got great traits. We look for three traits: smart, tough and athletic enough to play the position. He’s got all three, so we’ll see if that translates to this level.”
With Wynn, Brown and Cannon all sidelined for the next month, however, the Patriots’ other tackles will get their chance to impress the coaching staff. That group includes LaAdrian Waddle, Cole Croston, Matt Tobin, Ulrick John and Andrew Jelks.
“Honest to God truth, I look at it all right now as a blessing,” Scarnecchia said. “Yeah, all right, so we don’t have these guys for the OTAs and all that. Well, somebody else is going to be in there. We’re going to see what they do. And maybe that makes us better in the long run. Maybe that gives a guy a rep that normally wouldn’t get those reps because those guys are in there, and we’ll see what he’s made of. That’s what we’re going to deal with, and, hey, sign me up. I don’t mind it. That’s the job.”
Scarnecchia’s chat with reporters concluded shortly before the Patriots released tackle Antonio Garcia, a 2017 third-round draft pick who spent his entire rookie season on the non-football illness list.
Other notable nuggets from Scarnecchia’s media availability:
— The Patriots would prefer to keep Cannon at right tackle rather than trying him out on the left side. Cannon was a second-team All-Pro right tackle in 2016 and played well last season before his injury.
— Wynn also will get reps at guard, but the team is satisfied with its current interior O-line trio of Thuney, center David Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason.
“It’s the same guys we’ve had for two years, so that’s where we’ll start,” Scarnecchia said. “But we compete. We want them to compete. Whoever’s behind them, we want them to compete, and we feel like we have some pretty decent players behind them.”
— Scarnecchia said Brown is the largest player he’s ever coached. His listed weight of 355 pounds is the heaviest of any current NFL player, but Scarnecchia referred to him as being 380 pounds.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images