ESPN’s Mike Reiss released a strong list of Patriots quick hits this morning, covering a long list of topics including the 2001 reunion, Alan Branch’s suspension, and more.
Reiss notes that the Patriots are still confident, despite losing All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski to the injured reserve.
“Everyone knows how special [Gronk] is and it hurts,” one anonymous team leader told Reiss, “but this year, more so than other years, we feel like there are more weapons and so no one is freaking out about it."
The Patriots have a great back-up in Martellus Bennett, while the depth at wide receiver and running back is stronger than in years prior.
Reiss also highlights a pay raise for a few practice squad players. Prior to his promotion, RB D.J. Foster was earning the same salary on the practice squad as he was earning on the active roster. OG Chris Barker bumped up from $10,000 to $15,000 per week, while WR DeAndrew White was boosted up from the minimum of $6,900 to $10,000 per week. White has been named practice player of the week four victories in a row and Reiss believes White would be next in line for a promotion if a receiver were hurt, ahead of rookie 7th round pick Devin Lucien.
Reiss also takes a moment to discuss the succession plan for offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who came out of retirement to save the team this year. The Patriots have asked Cole Popovich to shadow Scarnecchia every step of the way and is likely the ultimate replacement one or two more seasons down the line.
“Cole does a lot of things behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t know about,” left guard Joe Thuney told Reiss. “He’s been really helpful, especially in the early stages of the spring and summer, with the playbook and any questions we had. Very smart football guy, very detailed. We appreciate all the work he does.”
Pats Pulpit covered this topic over the summer by speaking with two former coaches that have worked with Popovich.
“[Cole] was an outstanding player and a great student of the game,” Pat Hill, former head coach of Fresno State and former Browns offensive line coach under Bill Belichick, told PatsPulpit.com via e-mail. “After he was done playing he immediately went into coaching and has done a great job everywhere he's been. He will be a great addition to the staff at New England because of his work ethic and knowledge of the game. He will relate well to players and he will be a great fundamental teacher of offensive line play.”
The Patriots can’t afford two more down seasons of line play like they suffered in 2014-15. Popovich should ensure a smooth transition into the future.
Reiss covers a lot of topics, including which player is serving as Rams DT Aaron Donald for the scout team. Read the article here.