FOXBORO — Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins [stats] is eventually going to return from ACL surgery. Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters might eventually show up when the time is right. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer will probably get back to playing when and if his back stops aching.
In the meantime, we’re supposed to believe everything will be just fine with the offensive line, because that’s how it usually goes with Dante Scarnecchia performing his magic.
We’re not supposed to complain and cower at the sight of Tom Brady [stats] running for his life every other play and getting his face planted in the ground. We’re not supposed to fear the worst with this makeshift, patchwork line protecting the franchise.
We’re just supposed to relax, and chill out, because Scarnecchia will make it all better in the end like he usually does. Sorry, I’m not buying in.
That frightening image of Brady scrambling to avoid oncoming danger during the second series last night in the preseason opener against the Saints was enough to make your skin crawl. That’s the reality right now, and it’s not the least bit comforting. That scene played out when second-year right tackle Marcus Cannon whiffed at Will Smith, leaving Brady completely exposed.
And no, it wasn’t the first time Brady was on the run. It was just the first time he was caught, and it wasn’t pretty. The result was a strip sack, fumble and plenty of pain.
Brady might have suffered more damage during the two series he played, but Nate Solder, who is now the franchise’s blindside protector thanks to the retirement of Matt Light [stats], held twice to save the quarterback. The only trouble was one of those holding calls nullified a 17-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd.
“I got to do better than that,” Solder said following the Pats’ 7-6 win over the Saints. “It’s just learn and move on.”Some of you might say it’s only one game, or part of a game. It’s no time to panic. Solder, Donald Thomas, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly and Cannon need time. True, but there’s just too much going on here to believe it’s going to get to the point where Brady has enough time to throw.
“I don’t necessarily like to be a worrywart when it comes to the Patriots [team stats], because somehow, some way, they figure it out. They get it together,” former Pats offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody told the Herald earlier this week, “but this one is really going to be a challenge. That’s a lot to overcome. You have to be able to protect Brady.”
Sirius NFL XM radio host and ex-Pats lineman Ross Tucker agreed. In fact, he was surprised Brady played at all last night with a makeshift line the Saints had already pummelled in the joint practice sessions.
“As good as Scarnecchia is, no one is a miracle worker,” Tucker said. “At some point, if they’re missing that many guys, it will catch up to them. There aren’t that many teams that have an eighth or ninth guy that can function at a starter’s level.”
All the additions to the offense really won’t matter, and all of Josh McDaniels’ creativity with the new parts won’t mean a thing if the line doesn’t hold up. If Brady doesn’t have time, offense will be hard to come by, just like last night.
“It doesn’t matter how many weapons you have if your quarterback is being harassed all the time, or is on his back,” Woody said. “This is something they’re going to have to keep their eye on. They’re going to have to get some continuity in the line, because you don’t want anything to happen to No. 12.”
The feeling is, all will be right once Mankins, Waters and Vollmer return. But who’s to say Mankins and Vollmer are going to be up to snuff when they return?