Patriots

Camp Battles: Showdown at left tackle kicks off

Camp Battles: Showdown at left tackle kicks off

FOXBORO -- For nearly two decades, the Patriots have never worried about their left tackle. Matt Light took over the job as a 2nd round rookie in 2001 then retired prior to the start of the 2012 season with a ready-made replacement, former first round pick Nate Solder. Solder, waiting in the wings.

Both players were fundamentally sound, athletic tackles who weren’t consistently considered amongst the league best - Light made 3 Pro Bowls, Solder none - but were always in and around the top 10 at their position. But with Solder taking the oodles of cash offered to him by the New York Giants, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has some work to do.

The top two candidates for the position - and to this point, the only candidates identified by Scarnecchia himself - are San Franciscan 49er castoff Trent Brown and this year’s first 1st round pick, Isaiah Wynn out of the University of Georgia. Here’s the thing: Brown has always been a right tackle in the pros while Wynn excelled at the position last year for a loaded Bulldogs team but lacks the prototypical size (6’2”, 310 lbs) for the position. This spring, Scarnecchia scoffed at the notion that Wynn couldn’t handle it.

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“He’s a really good player in the best conference in America at his position,” Scarnecchia said back in mid-May. “He’s smart. He’s as tough as they come. He played the whole year with a bad shoulder. He’s got great traits. Look, we look for great traits — smart, tough and athletic enough to play the position and he’s got all three. We’ll see if that translates to this level.”

On day one of camp, Brown, who like Wynn is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, got the nod with the Tom Brady-led offense, playing alongside Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon. 

Wynn got his reps with the next unit after spending a decent amount of time this spring lined up inside Brown as the left guard. With the team practices in shells, it would be irresponsible to grade how each player performed. That time will come soon, when full pads are donned. And when it does, we'll be watching closely. After all, protecting Tom Brady's blindside is a pretty big deal...

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Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Is the AFC East officially wide open now that Tom Brady is no longer a member of the New England Patriots? At least one Buffalo Bills player thinks so.

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was ecstatic to hear the news of Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That comes as no surprise, as the ex-Pats QB is an absurd 32-3 against Buffalo in his 20-year career and New England has won 11 straight division titles with Brady under center.

During an interview with WROC in Buffalo last week, McKenzie expressed his excitement about Brady leaving while giving the Patriots some bulletin-board material.

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“The Brady situation, I cheered,” McKenzie said. “He’s a great player. Our team is stacked. The last two years we’ve been giving him a run for his money, but now that he’s gone, it’s going to kind of be the Bills’ time to take over.”

McKenzie's confidence isn't unfounded. The Bills made a big splash earlier this offseason by trading for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, giving Josh Allen another dangerous weapon opposite John Brown. With Brady and several other key contributors leaving in free agency, the Patriots may have their work cut out for them next season.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane sang a much different tune than McKenzie on Thursday, saying it's "funny and comical how people are writing off the Patriots in the AFC East." Still, it's safe to bet McKenzie's words will be remembered in Foxboro when the 2020 campaign kicks off.

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

At various points this offseason, the New England Patriots have been connected to some of the free-agent quarterbacks on the open market. And after they lost Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, speculation increased that they could add a veteran to compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in the quarterback room.

One guy that has been mentioned quite a bit is Cam Newton. The 2015 MVP was released by the Carolina Panthers this offseason but has yet to sign with a team.

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Newton has been tied to the Patriots mostly by betting odds, which does make some sense. After all, Stidham is inexperienced and Hoyer has been an average-at-best starter during his time in the NFL. Newton has a history of high-level play when healthy, so perhaps he'd be worth the gamble for the right team.

But will the Patriots actually pursue him? One of the team's former personnel executives doesn't think so.

In a recent interview with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio, Scott Pioli, who worked in the Patriots front office from 2000-2008, spoke about Newton's connection to the Patriots. And ultimately, he doesn't think that Bill Belichick and Newton would be able to coexist.

"With Cam Newton, the Patriots thing is interesting because I've heard a lot of people talk about that. In my mind, having spent as much time with Bill as I did, I don't see those two coexisting together," Pioli said. "The personalities and beliefs of how the game should be played and is played, it seems like oil and water."

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Pioli joked that the Patriots will probably go right out and sign Newton after hearing these comments. But he ultimately just thinks Belichick and Newton wouldn't mesh well.

"I just see them as being very different personalities and having very different approaches to the game," Pioli said. "Bill believes in football more than entertainment. Cam believes that football and entertainment are almost equal partners. And in this day and age, it is, but Bill has the soul of a football man. I couldn't see that one working out too well. And if I did, it would probably have to be for one season."

Pioli makes some good points and perhaps that is why the team hasn't shown a lot of interest in Newton so far. Given that the team seems to believe in Stidham, it probably wouldn't make sense for them to bring in Newton to compete for the job if they're worried about how he might fit with the team.

Patriots fans should have a better idea of what the quarterback room will look like once the 2020 NFL Draft comes and goes. The Patriots may take another young player at the position to compete with Stidham and Hoyer. If they do, that would likely fully eliminate the possibility of them adding another veteran quarterback, if that option isn't already off the table.