FOXBOROUGH — Continuity is the key to success on the offensive line and so far in the preseason, the Patriots have enjoyed great success — much to the delight of Dante Scarnecchia.
“We’ve been able to keep four of them out there the whole time. That’s a good thing,’’ said Scarnecchia, New England’s longtime assistant and the dean of offensive line coaches in the NFL.
The lone member of the projected starting five who hasn’t been able to participate much is right tackle Marcus Cannon, who left a camp session early on Aug. 1. He did return to practice Monday and has been participating in individual drills but has been held out of full squad work so far, according to Scarnecchia.
LaAdrian Waddle has done yeoman’s work as Cannon’s replacement.
The newest member of the team’s front line has quite literally been one of the biggest stories of camp. Trent Brown, all 6 feet 8 inches and 380 pounds of him, arrived in New England with very little left tackle experience and was asked to replace longtime stalwart Nate Solder, whom the Patriots will see but not likely face in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Giants.
Scarnecchia has seen a lot of progress and development in Brown’s game.
“I have [and] I would suspect others have also,’’ Scarnecchia said. “He definitely has the skills to play out there — there’s no doubt. He’s long and he’s big. He’s a powerful guy. We like what we see, and we’ll just have to see how it all looks when everything gets going here.’’
Brown’s communication with the group, particularly his sidekick, left guard Joe Thuney, keeps improving.
“As it goes [with] Joe and his interaction with Trent, that’s getting better. There’s less mysteries over there,’’ Scarnecchia said. “And Trent, I think as you can see, he’s got some dynamic skills. And he’s working hard to be a really good player on every down. I think that’s something that’s been encouraging as we’ve gone along.’’
New England’s interior three of Thuney, center David Andrews, and right guard Shaq Mason have pretty much grown up together in the NFL and the trio is one of the clear strengths of this team.
“The inside three guys . . . have just played together now for a long time in this league,’’ Scarnecchia said. “So, they understand what’s to be expected of one another. They also are working really, really well together. I really appreciate that.’’
Another thing Scarnecchia clearly appreciates is the durability and depth of his linemen. Matt Tobin and Ulrick John are the backup tackles, while Ted Karras, Luke Bowanko, Brian Schwenke, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, and Jason King provide depth at the interior spots.
“I’ve told this group, all these linemen, this is a really good group of guys,’’ Scarnecchia said. “They, for the most part, have stayed out there. They’ve really worked hard to develop their skills and to be better players.
“I think that’s true with Matt, and it’s true with Ulrick, it’s true with Bowanko, it’s true with James Ferentz, it’s true with all of those guys. I really appreciate how those guys have gone in there when we’ve got our starters out [and] the wheels haven’t come off the offense. That’s a tribute to them and the way they practice and the way they prepare and they way they play. I like those guys.’’
Bill Belichick also was asked about Brown switching from right tackle to left tackle and the coach referenced Sebastian Vollmer, who handled both sides at several points in his career.
Belchick lauded Vollmer’s flexibility at the positions and when the coach was reminded that Vollmer will be calling games in his native German this season, it sparked a memory and some laughs in one of the lightest moments of the preseason.
“Sebastian was part of the rookie skit,’’ said a smiling Belichick. “The rookies didn’t have much material, which they usually don’t, and I suggested to him, ‘Why don’t you just get up there and imitate the head coach and say what I would say in German?’ So, he did. No one knew what he said, but it was pretty entertaining. He had a great sense of humor.’’
Belichick on a roll
It was the second round of laughter on the day after Belichick was asked if he had “an idea” of what players might be available around the league follow cutdown day Saturday. “Absolutely. Yeah, what do you think we’re doing? We’re in camp. We’re not having watermelon rolls and badminton contests and all that,’’ he said smiling. “Yeah, we’re working on football. We look at our team. We look at the 31 teams.’’
Long snapper Joe Cardona won the team’s Ron Burton Community Service Award Tuesday night. “Joe is a Patriot in the highest sense of the word, on and off the field,” owner Robert Kraft said of the Naval Academy grad. “Service to others is of principle importance to him.” . . . In light of Odell Beckham Jr.’s record contract, Rob Gronkowski said it “would be pretty cool’’ if tight ends were grouped into a pass catcher category when it came to salaries. While Gronkowski said he’s “always open for” having his contract adjusted, he added, “That’s not really my focus. I’ve got a long season ahead and just trying to focus on what I need to really do and just let everything else play out.’’ . . . Offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn (who is bound for injured reserve) and Bowanko, tight end Ryan Izzo, and linebacker Harvey Langi were the only absences at practice.