The New England Patriots have to be excited about the return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia because the players on the roster were meant for his system.
A two year detour with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo left many scratching their heads at how the Patriots potent pass blockers vanished in such a short window, but perhaps the issues can me easily explained by injuries and different techniques.
DeGuglielmo, known as Guge, has a history with a power-running offense from his time with the Giants, Dolphins, and Jets. That history didn't come to the Patriots as the Patriots fell outside of Football Outsider's Top 10 Rushing Rankings in both 2014 (14th) and 2015 (12th)- the first time New England was outside of the top 10 since 2005.
Inside The Pylon noticed that Guge asks his offensive tackles to play with a narrower stance than what Scarnecchia asked, and also had the players operate with their weight leaning forward. While this technique sometimes works with shorter tackles to help engage with pass rushers, it throws taller linemen (like Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer) off balance and leaves them susceptible to change-of-direction rushes.
It was a common occurrence to see the Patriots tackles overreaching to engage with a defender and it's because their stance prevented them from sliding to remain in front of the defender; in order to slide, the tackles would have to lean backwards and get high in their stance, opening them up to bull rushes and inside moves.
The rest of the offensive line suffered from similar issues as they rose in their stances prior to engaging with the defender. While the Patriots did a good job blocking against stunts, they really struggled to win their one-on-one battles.
We often talk about how Bill Belichick "likes to buy the groceries" when it comes to adding players to the roster that fit his schemes and strategies, and the same applies to the offensive line. Scarnecchia has been helping buy the ingredients, but Guge the Chef didn't know how to cook with them.
But now Scar is back in the kitchen and ready to get to work.
"He's an excellent coach," right tackle Sebastian Vollmer said. "I can't praise him high enough. I think he expects the best out of us and himself. I think just the way that he coaches, it's detail oriented."
One of the biggest differences between Guge and Scar is the level of detail and attention that Scar brings on a daily basis. Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard noted that the Patriots offensive linemen "weren't the biggest fans" of Guge back in 2014, because they were "comfortable with the precise instructions from the regimented Scarnecchia."
Scar is going to bring the offensive line back to the basics- back to proper stance widths, back to proper waist bend, back to proper arm extensions- because the veterans need to remember their technique, while the young players have never learned it.
"I think it's just starting from scratch and building a foundation again," Vollmer said about this offseason.
Even the new players are ready for some teaching.
"They say that he's such a great coach and he's old school," new acquisition Jonathan Cooper said. "And he'll get on you a little bit but the guys love him and that you won't have a better teacher than Coach Scarnecchia."
"The first thing I noticed was just that he's very passionate," third round pick Joe Thuney said. "I have to respect that. I love that about a coach, he's just very passionate about his players and the game of football. I really respond to that and I really look forward to working with him in the future."
The Patriots pass blocking ranked 31st in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, so the line can't get much worse than last season- and the return of Scar should hopefully return the run blocking back into Football Outsider's top 10.
Chef Scarnecchia is back.