Patriots

Patriots Roster Reset: Offensive line shifts with Scarnecchia retirement, Andrews return

Patriots Roster Reset: Offensive line shifts with Scarnecchia retirement, Andrews return

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Frank Clark and Chris Jones. Chandler Jones. Aaron Donald.

Now that we know what the Patriots schedule looks like, we can start to envision the challenges they'll face on both sides of the ball.

Based on the long list of premier pass-rushers it'll see week after week, there may not be a group on Bill Belichick's roster that's more consistently challenged than his offensive line. 

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Not only will that group have to deal with supreme talents across the line of scrimmage, but they'll also have to help a new quarterback — whether that's Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham — get comfortable behind center. They'll have to navigate the season without Dante Scarnecchia, who retired this offseason. And they'll have to stay healthier than they did last year when Tom Brady had backups at left tackle and center protecting him. No small feat.

LOCK 'EM IN

The Patriots should be able to open training camp — whenever that happens — with the starting five they hoped to have all last year: left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon. 

Getting Andrews back after he missed all of 2019 with blood clots in his lungs is an early victory for the Patriots.

Not only will his understanding of protections and leadership be critical, but he provides an element of athleticism at the position that will allow Josh McDaniels to vary his calls if he wants to get his linemen moving laterally in the run or pass games. 

ON THE BUBBLE

There were a variety of reserves on the roster at different points in 2019 who remain under contract. But their place on the team is far from certain.

Yodny Cajuste was a third-round selection last year and should have a good shot at remaining with the club if healthy, but he missed all of 2019 on the non-football injured reserve list. If available, he'd be a good candidate to serve as a swing tackle. Hjalte Froholdt, an interior lineman taken in the fourth round last year, had a difficult camp that ended with an injury that ended his rookie season. He's an option as interior depth after the Patriots lost Ted Karras to free agency this offseason. 

Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor were put in tough spots last year, arriving early in the season via trade, but both held onto roster spots throughout the year. (Cunningham played 59 snaps in total, while Eluemunor saw 29.) They could compete for reserve tackle and guard spots, respectively. Eluemunor played some tackle while with the Ravens, which may give him a leg up on others here because he has some positional flexibility. 

The first offensive lineman selected by the Patriots in the draft, sixth-rounder Michael Onwenu out of Michigan, is an intriguing under-the-radar option to make the roster. At 6-foot-3 and about 350 pounds, he has rare power and good athleticism to allow him to compete with burly interior defenders.

LONG SHOTS

The Patriots selected two more linemen on Day 3 of the draft, Justin Herron and Dustin Woodard, who may be best-suited as practice-squad candidates early in their careers.

Helping Herron is that he's a smart player who started for four seasons at left tackle at Wake Forest, and he's athletic enough to kick inside to guard. Woodard, meanwhile, is a touch undersized at 6-foot-1, 291 pounds, but he's another high-I.Q. player with four years of starting experience at Memphis. Looking like a center at the next level, Woodard could end up this year's James Ferentz as a backup pivot should the Patriots want one.

Interior option Najee Toran spent last season on the Patriots practice squad and will have another crack at the roster this summer.

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NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Yodny Cajuste is someone who may have dropped out of the collective New England consciousness over the last year. Even though he's not technically a newcomer, he could end up an important newcomer to the offensive line rotation in Foxboro in 2020. 

Cajuste was injured before he was drafted, the Patriots took him anyway, and he never saw the practice field. Not an ideal start to his career. This year could be a challenge for him (and anyone else trying to bounce back from injury) given the shortened offseason and limited access to team facilities. But if history is any indication, the Patriots are going to need tackle help. They needed it desperately last year and ended up using street free agent Marshall Newhouse as their starting left tackle for half the season. They needed four different starting tackles in 2017 en route to a Super Bowl. 

They're going to need someone to back up Cannon and Wynn and be ready to play. Cajuste could be that guy. He was considered a bit raw technique-wise prior to the 2019 draft but he's athletic, he showed good awareness at West Virginia, and his length (34-inch arms) is NFL caliber.

X-FACTOR

There are a number of items we could've highlighted here.

Thuney is playing on the franchise tag and still could be dealt if the Patriots get desperate for salary-cap space. Andrews' return is massive. Wynn's health — he's played eight games in his first two seasons — is always worth watching. 

But the story for this group in 2020 will be how do they handle life after "Scar." The last time Scarnecchia retired, Dave DeGuglielmo stepped in and won a ring in 2014. That was a difficult transition, though, going from one coach to another with two very different styles. 

Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich are expected to help guide the group this year. Both have spent significant time working closely with Scarnecchia in the past so there should be some consistency there in terms of approach.

But it's hard to know how this unit will react to adverse moments — from week to week and series to series — without one of the best and most thorough assistant coaches in NFL history there to hold the reins.

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (Aug. 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)

Julian Edelman shows Tom Brady love on ex-Patriots QB's 43rd birthday

Julian Edelman shows Tom Brady love on ex-Patriots QB's 43rd birthday

Tom Brady and Julian Edelman are no longer teammates, but they're very much still friends.

Brady celebrated his 43rd birthday Monday as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL first for the quarterback after 20 years with the New England Patriots.

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Edelman, who spent 11 seasons as Brady's teammate in New England, used his Instagram story to shout out his former QB with some heartfelt well wishes.

Edelman seemingly is eager to prove he's not just "a product of Brady" after the QB helped him amass a career-high 1,117 receiving yards last season.

The 34-year-old wide receiver also has been working out with new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, so he's certainly not dwelling on the past.

Then again, he and Brady developed an incredibly close bond as Patriots teammates and won three Super Bowl titles together, and that bond hasn't broken despite Brady migrating to Tampa Bay.