Well Pats fans, the oline woes have continued to multiply for the hometown team. Recently signed Barry Stokes hit the IR and is out for the season. There he joins early-pre-season signee Anthony Clement. Mike Reiss has a decent rundown on the financial hit to the team. But as he and every serious Patriot-watcher knows, the financial hit isn't the hardest hit.
The set-backs to Tom Brady's rampart and Maroney's vanguard continue to pile up. No offense to the kid, but Nick Kaczur is not an NFL-caliber left tackle. He and Wes Britt have been doing double-duty in camp lately, swapping in with the second team and moving from right to left.
Versatility is great. You've got to love it when some of your top guys can play anywhere on the line. But when you're banking on versatility in lieu of depth, or versatility as a strategy to deal with a lack of depth, well, that's cause for concern. [Footnote here to every JHR comment about unit cohesion on the o-line.]
Last week the Patriots picked up another youngster for Dante to mold. Stephen Sene was a rookie non-draftee FA picked up by the Rams this year. His bio is brief, but I did some checking around. Here's the skinny:
Sene comes from a tight-knit religious family in Colombia, South Carolina. He was heavily recruited by the SEC and ACC out of high school, ultimately going to South Carolina. After a redshirt year due to injury, he was poised to be a four-year SEC starter on the o-line. No mean feat. But things weren't quite right for Sene at SC.
It's not entirely clear but I think a combination of things were going on. He seems like a quiet kid, and his moral and spiritual life is very important to him. The big-time SEC atmosphere wasn't the right setting for him and he left.
In his first camp with Dodge City Community College in Kansas, he tore his ACL and didn't play a down. He became an assistant coach, working with the o-line. Liberty University tracked him down there and offered him a scholarship. He played two seasons with the Flames and became one of the premier offensive linemen in the Big South.
Not saying much, obviously, but you've got to give the kid credit for making the most of his second chance. He joins fellow Patriots rookie, linebacker Vince Redd, as the second Liberty alum in camp. Winning your league gets you some attention, apparently. Initially signed by the Rams, he was released at the end of July.
He was a project, and project o-linemen are longshots by definition. His admitted weakness is lower body strength, something he'll have to work on if he hopes to stick around for more than a year.
Normally, religion front-and-center in an athlete is a big downer for me. IMO, god doesn't give a shit about games--at least no god worth worshiping. But Sene's attachment to his faith seems an effortless extension of his persona rather than a pose or a shield. I find myself rooting for him to succeed here.
If he does, he'll probably wind up on the practice squad. MaPatsFan makes a good point about building from youth on the o-line in his preview post, echoing the concerns of others in regard to recent draft years. He's right about this year--we needed a quick infusion of youth in our linebacking corps. But in spite of the fact that we haven't hit for power in recent o-line drafts, there seems to be a solid foundation of youth there now.
In addition to Sene, Ryan Wendell, center from Fresno State, is another rookie in the trenches. Like Sene, he's a sharp, well-spoken kid who was a force in college. Jimmy Martin, with one year of tenure, rounds out a trio of young offensive linemen that the Patriots now have in camp. If they stick, they could form the nucleus of a strong o-line one or two years from now. In the meantime, however, it's into the deep end to sink or swim. For the sake of this year--at least the early weeks--I hope it's "swim."
Here's a decent video on Sene: