Coach happy with resurgence of offensive line
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Dave DeGuglielmo was excited to return to his roots when he became offensive line coach of the New England Patriots this year.
He was back in the state where he was born, raised and played college football.
A state, though, with impatient fans and judgmental media who pounce when players or coaches seem to be struggling.
So when Tom Brady was sacked nine times in the first four games, DeGuglielmo – and his friends and family – heard about it.
”It was all right for my family to deal with that when I was in another state, but it’s different when your last name is posted on a newspaper,” he said.
”That’s how it is and that’s business. Hey, you’re a farmer and you have a bad rain, your crops are terrible. What can you do? You have to keep working through it and find a way to make a living. I think we’ve done that here.”
The Patriots (7-2) won their last five games before this week’s bye. Players have five days off before returning Tuesday to prepare to visit the Indianapolis Colts (6-3).
DeGuglielmo said the criticism didn’t bother him, not even comparisons with highly respected Dante Scarnecchia, who retired after 15 seasons as offensive line coach.
”When your players go out and they do poorly, I don’t feel bad for me. I feel bad for them because they’re the ones out there working,” said DeGuglielmo, who was born in Cambridge, grew up in Lexington, played four seasons for Boston University and was an assistant coach there and a graduate assistant at Boston College.
”All I care about is that my men come out of a game like they did after last game and say, `Coach, I feel good. I feel healthy. I did it right. We had success.”’
Brady was sacked once last Sunday when the Patriots routed the Denver Broncos 43-21. In the past five games, blockers have allowed just five sacks.
It was the first game this season in which the same five interior linemen played every offensive snap. The Patriots had tried many combinations before hitting on one that worked best.
Rookie center Bryan Stork gets help from his guards, Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell, both former centers. The tackles, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, are veteran starters.
”We’re all really familiar with each other and I think that does help,” Solder said, ”but whoever’s in there, we can’t make excuses. We’ve got to continue to play and play well.”
The first shock to the line came when the Patriots traded six-time Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Aug. 26, just 12 days before New England’s opener.
Marcus Cannon started the first three games at left guard. Connolly got the call for the next three before being sidelined for one game by a concussion and replaced by Jordan Devey. Connolly returned for the next two.
The unexpected loss of a key starter like Mankins wasn’t new to DeGuglielmo, who spent three years as offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins and one for the New York Jets before spending last year as a football analyst for a South Carolina radio station.
”I’ve been in situations in the past where I walk in on Wednesday and three guys are gone and three new guys are in the chair and I wasn’t even told who they were or where they came from,” DeGuglielmo said. ”But I introduced myself and away we go. That’s pro football.”
The line opened big holes for running back Jonas Gray in a 51-23 blowout of the Chicago Bears two weeks ago. It wasn’t as effective in the ground game against the Broncos, but it protected Brady well.
”Communication is always a very important factor” for a group working together, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. ”The offensive line has really come along. … We’ve tried to demonstrate some patience in letting some guys work out some different kinks and getting really familiar with playing with one another.”
That’s paid off in better protection for Brady and less criticism of DeGuglielmo.
”I’m coaching at home for the first time in a high-profile role,” he said, and he’s received texts expressing frustration. ”I don’t mind it. I pretty much delete it and ignore it or respond with humor. People outside of the (team) don’t understand how the business works, so I can understand that their reaction is different than mine.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL